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Purdy and Assisted Suicide in the Northern Ireland Assembly

October 20, 2009 2 comments

Debbie Purdy & Omar PuenteIn heated Assembly debate last week MLAs took turns to pour scorn on the House of Lords decision in R (on the application of Purdy) v Director of Public Prosecutions [2009] UKHL 45. At the end of July Debbie Purdy (pictured with her husband, Omar Puente), who suffers from primary progressive multiple sclerosis, succeeded in her judicial review seeking further guidance upon the exercise of prosecutorial discretion should her husband assist her if she chose to commit suicide. In the aftermath of this decision the Director of Public Prosecutions in England and Wales and the Public Prosecution Service in Northern Ireland undertook to clarify their guidance.

Mr Danny Kennedy (UUP, Newry & Armagh) rounded on the courts as the instigators of the assisted suicide debate:

‘The present debate in the UK flows from the decision that the Law Lords made a relatively short time after Parliament had spoken definitively against suicide. That is not how the law in the United Kingdom or anywhere should be made. The courts exist to interpret law, not to make it’.

Mr Simon Hamilton (DUP, Strangford) followed with an assertion that, ‘we were seeing another example of potential legislating from the bench. That is not the way that law is or should be made in this part of the world. Law is supposed to be made by legislators such as us and enacted in the courts by the judiciary, not made by the judiciary itself’.

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