Five new assisted suicide cases referred to Crown Prosecution Service in a year

9 April, 2024

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has updated its assisted suicide figures, revealing that five assisted suicide cases have been referred to them in the past year. Humanists UK calls for parliament to legalise assisted dying, instead of leaving an unclear law to be interpreted by the CPS.

From 1 April 2009 up to 31 March 2024, the CPS’s manual records show:

  • 187 cases that have been recorded as assisted suicide have been referred to the CPS by the police. Five new cases from 31 March 2023 to 31 March 2024
  • 127 were not proceeded with by the CPS (an increase of two)
  • 36 cases were withdrawn by the police (an increase of one)
  • Six cases are ongoing (an increase of two)

Since 2009, four cases of encouraging or assisting suicide have been prosecuted. One case of assisted suicide was charged and acquitted after trial in May 2015, and eight cases were referred onwards for prosecution for homicide or other serious crime.

Nathan Stilwell, Assisted Dying Campaigner for Humanists UK, said:

‘We don’t know the details of these cases but we do know that the current legislation on assisted dying is unclear, inadequate, and barbaric. People who compassionately assist a loved one who is suffering and has made a clear and settled wish to die should be allowed to grieve. They should not be slammed into a jail cell and investigated.

‘Introducing any law at all would be far better than the hodge-podge system we have now. We’ve seen too many cases of people acting purely out of compassion who have been treated like common criminals. What would you do if the person you loved was in pain and wanted you to help them to Switzerland?’

Humanists UK revealed in 2022 that one of our members was arrested at 5.30 am, put in a cell, held for 19 hours, and then subjected to a six-month police investigation, for escorting a woman to receive a medically assisted death in Switzerland.

The person she assisted was 60-year-old Sharon Johnston from Cardigan, who became tetraplegic following a fall at her previous home in Aberystwyth. Sharon spoke publicly about her wish to have an assisted death in 2021 BBC documentary When Would You Want to Die? Humanists UK arranged her participation.

Sir Keir Starmer updated the CPS guidelines on this when he was the Director of Public Prosecution in 2009. He has since committed to holding a vote on assisted dying in the next parliament

In 2009, the UK’s highest court ruled that the assisted suicide legalisation was unclear, after Debbie Purdy, a former music journalist who suffered from multiple sclerosis, won her case. She argued that it was against her human rights not to know if her husband Omar would be prosecuted for assisting her to die in Switzerland.

Debbie Purdy would not have been eligible under recent attempts to change the law in England and Wales. These attempts have been limited to terminally ill people with six months left to live or fewer – despite her suffering, Debbie would not have been classed as terminally ill. That’s why Humanists UK supports a more compassionate law

If you are struggling to cope, please call Samaritans for free on 116 123 (UK and ROI) or contact other sources of support, such as those listed on the NHS Help for suicidal thoughts webpages. Support is available round the clock, every single day of the year, providing a safe place for anyone struggling to cope, whoever they are, however they feel, and whatever life has done to them.


If you have been affected by the current assisted dying legislation, and want to use your story to support a change in the law, please email 

Read six reasons we need an assisted dying law.

Read more about our analysis of the assisted dying inquiry

Read more about our campaign to legalise assisted dying in the UK.

Humanists UK is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people. Powered by over 120,000 members and supporters, we advance free thinking and promote humanism to create a tolerant society where rational thinking and kindness prevail. We provide ceremonies, pastoral care, education, and support services benefitting over a million people every year and our campaigns advance humanist thinking on ethical issues, human rights, and equal treatment for all.