Nicklinson v Ministry of Justice; R (on the applicaion of AM) v DPP

JurisdictionEngland & Wales
JudgeThe Master of the Rolls and Lord Justice Elias,Lord Judge, Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales
Judgment Date31 July 2013
Neutral Citation[2013] EWCA Civ 961,[2013] EWCA Civ 466
Docket NumberCase Nos: C1/2012/2712, C1/2012/2918 & C1/2012/2931
CourtCourt of Appeal (Civil Division)
Date31 July 2013

[2013] EWCA Civ 961

IN THE COURT OF APPEAL (CIVIL DIVISION)

ON APPEAL FROM THE HIGH COURT OF JUSTICE

QUEEN'S BENCH DIVISION

DIVISIONAL COURT

TOULSON LJ, ROYCE AND MACUR JJ

CO/7774/2010

HQ11X04443

Royal Courts of Justice

Strand, London, WC2A 2LL

Before:

The Lord Chief Justice

The Master of the Rolls

and

Lord Justice Elias

Case Nos: C1/2012/2712, C1/2012/2918 & C1/2012/2931

Between
(1) The Queen on the Application of Mrs Jane Nicklinson (in Her Own Right and as Administratrix of The Estate of Mr Tony Nicklinson Deceased)
(2) Mr Paul Lamb
Appellants
and
Ministry of Justice
Respondent

and

Director of Public Prosecutions
1st Interested Party
Her Majesty's Attorney General
2nd Interested Party

and

CNK Alliance Limited (Care Not Killing) British Humanist Association
Intervenors in both Appeals
(3) The Queen on The Application of AM
Appellant
and
Director of Public Prosecutions
Respondent

and

A Primary Care Trust
Interested Party

Mr Paul Bowen QC and Mr Guy Vassall-Adams (instructed by Bindmans) for the First and Second Appellants

Mr David Perry QC and Mr James Strachan QC (instructed by Treasury Solicitor) for the Respondent Ministry of Justice

Mr Philip Havers QC and Mr Adam Sandell (instructed by Leigh Day & Co) for the Appellant AM

Mr Charles Foster and Mr Benjamin Bradley (instructed by Barlow Robbins LLP, Guildford) for CNK Alliance Limited

Ms Rebecca Trowler QC and Ms Caoilfhionn Gallagher (instructed by Irwin Mitchell LLP) for The British Humanist Association

Mr John McGuiness QC (instructed by the CPS Appeals Unit) for the Respondent Director of Public Prosecutions

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Paragraph

The Master of the Rolls and Lord Justice Elias:

INTRODUCTION

1

THE APPELLANTS

5

•Martin

6

•Tony Nicklinson

11

•Paul Lamb

13

•Jane Nicklinson

15

THE RELEVANT LAW

16

•Assisted dying at common law

17

•Article 8 ECHR

31

THE ISSUES

37

ISSUE 1 — SHOULD THE COMMON LAW BE DEVELOPED?

47

ISSUE 2 — THE LEGAL PROHIBITIONS AND ARTICLE 8

67

•Is a blanket prohibition compatible with Article 8?

70

•The margin of appreciation

107

ISSUE 3 — DOES THE POLICY OF THE DPP SATISFY THE CONVENTION PRINCIPLES OF PROPORTIONALITY?

115

•The Policy

127

•Is the Policy "in accordance with the law"?

129

OVERALL CONCLUSION

149

The Lord Chief Justice:

THE ROLE OF THE COURT

151

THE BLANKET BAN AND PROPORTIONALITY

157

THE DPP'S DISCRETION

163

THE DPP'S POLICY IN RESPECT OF CASES OF ASSISTED DYING

170

CONCLUSION

188

The Master of the Rolls and Lord Justice Elias
1

These appeals concern individuals who suffer from permanent and catastrophic physical disabilities. They are of sound mind and acutely conscious of their predicament. They do not want to suffer a painful and undignified process of dying. They wish to die at a time of their choosing. However, they are not physically capable of ending their own lives unaided. AM (known as "Martin", but that is not his real name) can end his own life but only with the assistance of a third party. Paul Lamb is so disabled that he cannot even commit suicide with assistance; he requires a third party to terminate his life. (That was also the position of Tony Nicklinson, although he died soon after the judgment below was delivered.) Each has a settled and considered wish that his death should be hastened by the requisite assistance. Each contends that as a matter of both common law and European Convention of Human Rights law ("the Convention"), those who provide him with assistance to bring about his death ought not to be subject to any criminal consequences. The current understanding of the law is that those providing such assistance will be committing the offence of assisted suicide contrary to section 2(1) of the Suicide Act 1961 ("the 1961 Act") if they merely assist a person to take his own life, and murder if they actually terminate life themselves.

2

In the case of Martin, he seeks in the alternative to establish that even if the person assisting him to commit suicide may be subject to criminal prosecution, it is incumbent on the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), who alone can decide whether or not to initiate such a prosecution, to set out in greater detail than he has hitherto how that discretion may be exercised. Martin submits that Convention law requires that he, and anyone assisting him, should be able to assess with some confidence the risk of their being prosecuted.

3

It is obvious even from this brief sketch of the facts that these appeals raise complex and highly controversial moral and ethical issues concerning the sanctity of life and the limits of autonomous self-determination. The principal contours of this wide-ranging debate were succinctly mapped out by Lord Steyn in his judgment in R (Pretty) v Director of Public Prosecutions [2002] 1 AC 800 (para 54):

"The subject of euthanasia and assisted suicide have been deeply controversial long before the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948, which was followed two years later by the European Convention on Human Rights and Freedoms (1950). The arguments and counter arguments have ranged widely. There is a conviction that human life is sacred and that the corollary is that euthanasia and assisted suicide are always wrong. This view is supported by the Roman Catholic Church, Islam and other religions. There is also a secular view, shared sometimes by atheists and agnostics, that human life is sacred. On the other side, there are many millions who do not hold these beliefs. For many the personal autonomy of individuals is predominant. They would argue that it is the moral right of individuals to have a say over the time and manner of their death. On the other hand, there are utilitarian arguments to the contrary effect. The terminally ill and those suffering great pain from incurable illnesses are often vulnerable. And not all families, whose interests are at stake, are wholly unselfish and loving. There is a risk that assisted suicide may be abused in the sense that such people may be persuaded that they want to die or that they ought to want to die. Another strand is that, when one knows the genuine wish of a terminally ill patient to die, they should not be forced against their will to endure a life they no longer wish to endure. Such views are countered by those who say it is a slippery slope or the thin end of the wedge. It is also argued that euthanasia and assisted suicide, under medical supervision, will undermine the trust between doctors and patients. It is said that protective safeguards are unworkable. The countervailing contentions of moral philosophers, medical experts and ordinary people are endless. The literature is vast: see for a sample of the range of views: Glanville Williams, The Sanctity of Life and the Criminal Law, 1958, chap 8. Ronald Dworkin, Life's Dominion: An Argument About Abortion and Euthanasia, 1993, chap 7; Euthanasia Examined: Ethical clinical and legal perspectives, Essays edited by John Keown, 1995; Otlowski, Voluntary Euthanasia and the Common Law, 1997, chap 5–8; Mary Warnock, An Intelligent Person's Guide to Ethics, 1998, chap 1. It is not for us, in this case, to express a view on these arguments. But it is of great importance to note that these are ancient questions on which millions in the past have taken diametrically opposite views and still do."

4

These appeals also raise important constitutional questions about the role which the courts should play, if any, in resolving these difficult ethical problems. The appellants submit that fundamental rights — both common law and Convention — are in play and that as guardians of those rights, the judges cannot simply refuse to resolve the conflicting arguments that arise on the grounds that they raise difficult ethical and moral issues better suited to resolution by Parliament. They have to engage with the issues, however unsavoury they may find the task, and they must vindicate fundamental rights unless satisfied that any interference with those rights is justified and proportionate; it would be an abnegation of judicial responsibility to do otherwise. Indeed, the heart of the appeal advanced before this court by Mr Bowen QC, counsel for the Nicklinsons and Mr Lamb, is that the Divisional Court, which dismissed the applications below, wrongly failed in its duty to engage with this question.

The appellants.

5

The circumstances under which each of these appellants live day by day make distressing reading and evoke the greatest sympathy. They explain why they have each taken a settled wish to end their lives.

Martin.

6

Martin lives with his wife and his wife's daughter. He is 48 years of age. In August 2008 he suffered a brainstem stroke, the effects of which are permanent. It left him virtually unable to move. He cannot speak. He can communicate only through small movements of his head and eyes and, very slowly, by using a special computer that can detect where on a screen he is looking. The computer shows him letters and words which he selects by looking at them for a few seconds. The computer then displays them on another part of the screen and speaks them out loud. The process is painfully slow.

7

Martin is totally dependent on others for every aspect of his life. He lives in an adapted room in his family home. He spends almost all of his time in bed, although he can be taken out of the house. His care is provided by his wife, who is a nurse, and by full-time carers provided by his local NHS Primary Care Trust. He is fed by people...

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6 cases
1 firm's commentaries
  • Health Alert (Australia) - 12 August 2013
    • Australia
    • Mondaq Australia
    • 16 August 2013
    ...and continual nursing supervision. United Kingdom (UK) Anor, R (on the application of) Nicklinson and Lamb v Ministry of Justice [2013] EWCA Civ 961 "These appeals concern individuals who suffer from permanent and catastrophic physical disabilities. They are of sound mind and acutely consci......
5 books & journal articles
  • Necessity as a Defence to Murder: An Anglo-Canadian Perspective
    • United Kingdom
    • Journal of Criminal Law, The No. 78-4, August 2014
    • 1 August 2014
    ...(on the application of Nicklinson) (AP) vMinistry of Justice [2014] UKSC 38; R (on theapplication of Nicklinson) vMinistry of Justice [2013] EWCA Civ 961. See broadly forcommentary: F. Stark, ‘Necessity and Nicklinson’ [2013] Crim LR 949; F. Stark, ‘Necessityand Policy in R (Nicklinson and ......
  • Honour Suicide and Forced Suicide in the UK
    • United Kingdom
    • Journal of Criminal Law, The No. 86-5, October 2022
    • 1 October 2022
    ...Mr Paul Lamb v Ministry of Justice and DPP and Her Majesty’s Attorney General and CNKAlliance Ltd British Humanist Association, [2013] EWCA Civ 961, para 22.108. The Queen on the Application of Mrs Jane Nicklinson (in her own right and as administratrix of the estate of Mr TonyNicklinson De......
  • Honour Suicide and Forced Suicide in the UK
    • United Kingdom
    • Journal of Criminal Law, The No. 86-5, October 2022
    • 1 October 2022
    ...Mr Paul Lamb v Ministry of Justice and DPP and Her Majesty’s Attorney General and CNKAlliance Ltd British Humanist Association, [2013] EWCA Civ 961, para 22.108. The Queen on the Application of Mrs Jane Nicklinson (in her own right and as administratrix of the estate of Mr TonyNicklinson De......
  • Pragmatism Preserved? The Challenges of Accommodating Mercy Killers in the Reformed Diminished Responsibility Plea
    • United Kingdom
    • Journal of Criminal Law, The No. 81-3, June 2017
    • 1 June 2017
    ...age, with a normal degree of tolerance and self-restraint, and in the circumstances of D,35. See R (Nicklinson) vMinistry of Justice [2013] EWCA Civ 961. For discussion, see F. Stark, ‘Necessity and Nicklinson’[2013] Crim LR 949.36. Section 54(1)(a) of the 2009 Act.37. S. Edwards, ‘Anger an......
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