Date lodged: 6 February 2018
To ask the Scottish Government, in light of the recent decision to overturn the conviction against a husband who helped his terminally ill wife to die, whether the Lord Advocate will consider issuing guidance regarding the prosecution of cases involving assisted dying.
Answered by: James Wolffe QC 27 February 2018
The Lord Advocate does not intend to issue guidance regarding the prosecution of cases involving assisted dying. In Scotland, such cases are considered according to the law of homicide. As in all cases, the first question is whether or not there is sufficient admissible evidence to justify commencing proceedings. Assuming that the report discloses sufficient admissible, reliable and credible evidence of a crime committed by the accused, the prosecutor must then consider what action is in the public interest. The factors which require to be taken into account in assessing the public interest will vary according to the circumstances of each case. Such a decision would be made in accordance with the published COPFS Prosecution Code.
It should be noted that in the recent appeal case referred to, the husband’s conviction for culpable homicide was not overturned; rather his sentence of imprisonment was quashed and he was admonished. Sentencing is a matter for the court and not for the Lord Advocate.