Conductor’s son will not be charged for assisting suicide

The son of a renowned conductor who helped his parents commit suicide will not be prosecuted under new legal guidelines on assisted suicide.

Keir Starmer QC, the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), has revealed that Caractacus Downes will not be prosecuted despite there being sufficient evidence.

Mr Starmer, who claimed a prosecution wouldn’t be in the public interest, defended his decision, saying: “The evidence and information available indicates that Mr Downes was wholly motivated by compassion.”


He added: “Having reviewed all the available information, we have concluded that this is a case where the only driving force behind Mr Downes’ actions was compassion.

“Accordingly, we do not regard the fact that he stands to gain financially in accordance with the terms of his parents’ wills as a factor tending in favour of prosecution in this case.”

Mr Downes and his sister, Boudicca, stand to inherit £2.7 million from their parents, according to the Mirror newspaper.

Sir Edward Downes CBE was conductor emeritus of the BBC Philharmonic orchestra and Lady Joan Downes was a former ballet dancer and choreographer.


Last July Caractacus Downes accompanied his parents to Switzerland where they both ended their lives in the Dignitas suicide facility.

Mr Downes also booked a hotel room for his parents, but the DPP dismissed this as being “of minor assistance”.

These actions would have been sufficient for a prosecution to take place under the 1961 Suicide Act.


But the DPP released guidance last month which states that people who assist a suicide are unlikely to be prosecuted if they are “motivated by compassion”.

However, critics expressed concern about the new guidance.

Dr Peter Saunders, of the Care Not Killing alliance, said: “Anyone who takes part in an assisted suicide is going to claim they were acting out of compassion.

“The only witness who really knows will be dead.”


Some politicians also expressed anger at what they saw as “back door” attempts to meddle with the law without MPs debating the issue.

Speaking in the House of Commons, Conservative MP Mark Pritchard said: “There is real concern out in the community that this House is not having a say. People are very concerned that this is a new back door to euthanasia in the UK.”

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