Page last updated at 15:22 GMT, Tuesday, 26 January 2010

CPS defends charging Gilderdale over ME daughter death

Bridget Kathleen Gilderdale
Bridget Kathleen Gilderdale was cleared of attempted murder

The Director of Public Prosecutions has defended bringing charges against a mother who was cleared of trying to kill her severely ill daughter.

Bridget Kathleen Gilderdale, 55, of East Sussex, was cleared of attempted murder at Lewes Crown Court.

Mr Justice Bean questioned if the prosecution should have been brought as she had previously admitted assisting her daughter's suicide.

Keir Starmer QC said the prosecution was "in the public interest".

He said there was evidence that Gilderdale had gone "a step further than assisted suicide" to end her daughters life.

'Persistent requests'

He said there had been a "realistic prospect" of a conviction as Gilderdale administered morphine and other drugs to her daughter and injected air into her veins after the 31-year-old's initial suicide attempt appeared to have failed in December 2008.

Lynn Gilderdale
Lynn Gilderdale developed ME at the age of 14

The trial had been told that Gilderdale crushed up pills and fed them to her daughter through her nasal tube, handed her morphine and injected three syringes of air into her.

Doctors were unable to say if it was the drugs she administered herself or those given to her by her mother that finally ended Miss Gilderdale's life.

During the trial prosecutor Sally Howes was asked by Mr Justice Bean "why it was considered to be in the public interest" to pursue Gilderdale on the attempted murder charge when she had pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting the suicide of her 31-year-old daughter.

The decision to prosecute was also criticised by Sarah Wootton, chief executive of charity Dignity in Dying.

She said: "Given that Lynn Gilderdale was mentally competent, made persistent requests to die and had an Advance Decision stating that she did not want to be kept alive, it seems that Kay Gilderdale's actions should have been investigated under the Suicide Act, rather than under murder law."

In his statement Mr Starmer QC said assisted suicide and attempted murder were "very different offences", adding: "Attempted murder is a step further than assisted suicide because it involves attempting to take the victim's life directly. It is a more serious offence."

He added: "In Mrs Gilderdale's case, the jury rejected the allegation of attempted murder and I fully respect the verdict.

"I also recognise that Mrs Gilderdale was a devoted mother who acted out of love and devotion for her daughter.

"But the fact remains that where the Crown Prosecution Service is satisfied that there is evidence to support a charge of attempted murder, the seriousness of that charge will very often mean that it is in the public interest to bring a case to court so that a jury can consider the evidence and return their verdict, as they did in this case."

Miss Gilderdale, who developed ME when she was 14, had become paralysed and unable to swallow so she had to be fed through a tube and communicated with her parents through a form of sign language.

The court was told her mother, from Stonegate, had tried to stop her ending her life but backed down after she told her: "I want the pain to go."


Victoria Sedgwick, a neighbour of Kay Gilderdale in Stonegate, says she is relieved Mrs Gilderdale was cleared

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