Prosecutions in England and Wales under s 2(1) Suicide Act 1961 are rare; but the crime remains on the statute book. On Monday the Crown Prosecution Service announced that a woman called Milly Caller had been charged under s 2(1). Emma Crossman died on 15 January 2014 having taken her own life using equipment that had allegedly been bought for her by Ms Caller. In a statement, Rosemary Ainslie of the CPS said this:
“In July 2014 the CPS received a file concerning allegations in relation to the actions of Milly Caller, 22, from Sleaford, in the suicide of Emma Crossman, a 21 year old woman from Lincolnshire. Having carefully reviewed the evidence in accordance with the Code for Crown Prosecutors, the CPS has decided that there is sufficient evidence to provide a realistic prospect of conviction, and that a prosecution is in the public interest. Accordingly I have today authorised the police to charge Milly Caller with one charge of encouraging or assisting suicide in that she provided equipment to Emma Crossman with the intent of encouraging or assisting suicide. Milly Caller will appear before Lincoln Magistrates’ Court on 16 October 2014.
May I remind all concerned that criminal proceedings against Milly Caller will now be commenced and of her right to a fair trial. It is extremely important that there should be no reporting, commentary or sharing of information online which could in any way prejudice these proceedings”.
The details of the full charge are as follows:
Encouraging or assisting suicide, contrary to section 2(1) of the Suicide Act 1961: On a day between 12 January 2014 and 15 January 2014 you did an act capable of encouraging or assisting the suicide of another person, namely Emma Crossman, in that you provided equipment to Emma Crossman, and that act was intended to encourage or assist suicide or an attempt at suicide”.
In the circumstances, it would be highly improper for us to make any further detailed comment on this particular case and, in any event, we know nothing more about it than the bare details in the CPS statement. For parliamentarians, however, the fact that a prosecution is pending may well be something at the back of the minds of the Lords Committee that will consider Lord Falconer of Thoroton’s Assisted Dying Bill, which had its second reading on 18 July.
As Ms Ainslie of the CPS indicated, the matter is sub judice; and though (as indicated in the 2005 Report of the House of Commons Procedure Committee on the matter) the sub judice rule may be relaxed when one or other House is considering legislation, there is normally a very strong convention that even in those circumstances matters before the criminal courts are referred to only very circumspectly, if at all.