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Disability rights campaigners won permission to bring a legal challenge

Disability rights campaigners who say assisted suicide policy in England and Wales is too “liberal” have won permission to bring a legal challenge. Director of public prosecutions Alison Saunders last year clarified assisted suicide guidelines, making prosecutions of health professionals less likely.

At London’s High Court, Nikki and Merv Kenward argued she had “changed” policy, making it more “liberal”.  Judges permitted a judicial review of Ms Saunders’ decision. In England and Wales, the Suicide Act 1961 makes it an offence to encourage or assist a suicide or a suicide attempt. But the Director of public prosecutions (DPP) has discretion over any prosecution according to the published policy. Mr and Mrs Kenward argued that the significance and legality of the clarifications should be properly assessed.

John McGuinness QC had argued on behalf of the DPP that there was no legal basis for the challenge.  But Lord Justice Bean, sitting with Mr Justice Hickinbottom, said permission was justified by the “importance” of the subject.