Page last updated at 13:10 GMT, Friday, 9 January 2009

Assisted suicide law 'workable'

Keir Starmer
Keir Starmer QC is known for his human rights work

The director of public prosecutions has said the law on assisted suicide is "workable" in its current form.

Keir Starmer spoke in the wake of the decision not to prosecute the parents of Daniel James, who helped him kill himself at a Swiss clinic last year.

He said a change in the law could bring "greater clarity," but it was up to Parliament to decide on any amendment.

Mr Starmer also said he would decide whether to prosecute Tory MP Damian Green "as soon as is practicable".

Mr Green was arrested last November by detectives from the Met's counter-terrorist command in connection with a series of leaks from the Home Office.


Mr Starmer took over as head of the Crown Prosecution Service in November.

Last month, he released a detailed statement explaining it would not be in the public interest to prosecute Mark and Julie James for helping their 23-year-old son take his own life at the Dignitas clinic in Switzerland.

Mr Starmer said he wanted to be as "open and honest" as he could about prosecution decisions, such as the James case.

The Daniel James case demonstrates that the current law is workable
Keir Starmer
Director of public prosecutions

"I think if I'm to be transparent I have a duty to explain that decision to the public," he said.

"Otherwise, you will say to me, 'You made a public interest decision but you won't tell us what it is.'"

Daniel James was left paralysed after a rugby accident in March 2007 and his parents were investigated by police following his death.

Mr Starmer said on Friday: "The Daniel James case demonstrates that the current law is workable.

"If the law is changed it may bring greater clarity, but it's a matter of speculation as to what any change would be.

"Whether there is to be a change in the law is a matter for Parliament not for me."

'No rush'

In a wide-ranging interview ahead of his first major speech as DPP, Mr Starmer said the investigation into Whitehall leaks was at a "very sensitive stage".

He said he would examine the evidence regarding Mr Green "properly and thoroughly".

"We are considering it and hope to make a decision as soon as reasonably practicable," he said.

Tory MP Damian Green
Damian Green was arrested in connection with Home Office leaks

"Obviously, the decision will be made public and whatever can be said about it will be made public by the CPS.

"We are hoping for the earliest possible decision once we have reviewed the decision properly and thoroughly. I don't want a delay, but I don't want it rushed."

Mr Starmer was also asked his opinion on whether court proceedings in Britain should be televised, as in the US.

He said he had "no objections in principle to greater openness of court proceedings" and he could not see any reason in principle why "in due course with safeguards there should not be some television".

He also said government plans to keep records of all e-mails and text messages sent in the UK needed to be protected by "effective safeguards".

And he defended the Human Rights Act as a "constitutional instrument of the first order".

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