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A 73-year-old man has been found not guilty of murder after he killed his terminally ill wife “in an act of love”. The decision comes as the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) continues work on its assisted suicide policy.
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Husband found guilty of manslaughter, not murder
Graham Mansfield gave an emotional testimony in court, describing how he killed his wife, Dyanne, because she was in so much pain with terminal cancer. She had asked him to take her life “when things get bad”. The retired baggage handler and union rep agreed on the condition that he end his life too.
Despite trying to commit suicide himself, Mr Mansfield recovered and was charged with murder. It took the jury just 90 minutes to find him not guilty, but he was convicted of the lesser charge of manslaughter at Manchester Crown Court. He was handed a two-year suspended sentence.
The difference between murder and manslaughter.
CPS guidance on mercy killings
The court’s decision comes as the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) continues to review its policy on mercy killings and suicide pacts. We previously reported in February 2022 that the CPS had launched a consultation considering public interest factors in these cases. It said prosecutors needed better direction when deciding whether to press charges where failed a suicide pact or mercy killing has occurred.
The consultation closed on 8 April 2022. At the time of writing, the CPS is still considering the responses to the consultation. It will publish a final version of the revised guidance in due course.
Although we cannot second-guess what the final guidance will say, the consultation suggested that a prosecution is less likely where the suspect was “wholly motivated by compassion”. The same is true where the victim was so physically unwell that they could not take their own life. On the other hand, the consultation suggested that a prosecution is still likely where the victim was under the age of 18 or had not reached a voluntary and informed decision to end their life.
We will continue to follow this story and will post updates on our blog.
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