Lords assisted suicide ruling may be ‘biased’

A Christian group has challenged a recent Law Lords decision on assisted suicide because of the personal views of one of the judges involved.

In a recent interview Britain’s most senior judge, Lord Phillips of Worth Matravers, revealed his sympathy for those seeking assisted suicide.

Just weeks before, Lord Phillips had handed down a Law Lords decision requiring the Director of Public Prosecutions to publish guidelines on prosecuting for assisting suicide.

The ruling, on a case brought by assisted suicide campaigner Debbie Purdy, overturned the decisions of two lower courts.

Lord Phillips told The Daily Telegraph he has “enormous sympathy” with anyone who preferred to “end their life more swiftly and avoid [a prolonged] death as well as avoiding the pain and distress that might cause their relatives”.

Now lawyers from the Christian Legal Centre (CLC) are concerned that these remarks show a bias which may have affected his judgment in a ruling which was welcomed by euthanasia campaigners.

They want the Purdy case to be reviewed by the new Supreme Court or even the European Court of Human Rights.

The CLC say a precedent for their action was set by a case concerning General Augusto Pinochet of Chile. In that instance a House of Lords judgment was set aside because one of the Law Lords had links to Amnesty International.

A letter from the CLC to the Director of Public Prosecutions says: “In the light of Lord Phillips’s reported statements we are concerned that the Judgment delivered by him on 30th July may have involved actual or apparent bias, having been coloured by his personal view of the issue underlying Ms Purdy’s Appeal, namely, assisted suicide.

“We therefore propose, as a matter of urgency, to seek legal opinion as to the integrity of the Judgment and as to whether an Appeal against it might be made to the European Court of Human Rights under the terms of Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights.”

CLC director Andrea Williams said: “It is inappropriate for a judge to participate in a case in which he has strong views.

“It [the interview] raises serious questions over impartiality with regard to Lord Phillips.

“Justice must be seen to be done.

“These are fundamental issues that affect life. They are a matter of life and death.”

A spokesman for the Crown Prosecution Service confirmed that it had received correspondance on the matter and said it would respond in due course.

A spokesman for the UK Supreme Court said: “Lord Phillips has not called for a change in the law.

“In an interview he gave after the judgment was handed down he simply expressed sympathy with anyone who was considering ending their life because they had a terminal illness. He made it clear that this was his personal view.”

In accordance with the Law Lords’ judgment in the Purdy case, the Director of Public Prosecutions is expected to publish preliminary guidelines on assisted suicide tomorrow.

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