Prosecuting suicide-death mother Kay Gilderdale 'in public interest'

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The Independent Online

The most senior prosecutor in England and Wales today defended the decision to bring charges against a mother cleared of trying to kill her seriously ill daughter, saying the prosecution was "in the public interest".

Director of Public Prosecutions Keir Starmer QC said he was satisfied there was enough evidence against Kay Gilderdale to provide a "realistic prospect of conviction" for attempted murder.

He said he "fully respected" the not guilty verdict and said Mrs Gilderdale was a "devoted mother who acted out of love and devotion" for her daughter Lynn.

But he said putting the case before a jury was in the public interest because of the evidence and because of the seriousness of the allegation.

Mrs Gilderdale was cleared by a jury at Lewes Crown Court yesterday and given a conditional discharge for assisting suicide, which she admitted.

The judge in the case, Mr Justice Bean, praised the jury for returning the verdict and questioned whether the prosecution had been worthwhile.

The 55-year-old mother from Stonegate in East Sussex gave her daughter morphine so she could fulfill her wish to end her "unimaginably wretched" life, the court heard.

Miss Gilderdale, 31, was struck down with ME aged 14 and went from living an active life as a teenager to being bedridden and needing 24-hour care.

But after she became unconscious, Mrs Gilderdale went further by injecting a cocktail of drugs and air into her bloodstream.

It was at this point that her conduct passed from assisting suicide to, potentially, attempted murder, Mr Starmer said.

In a statement, the head of the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said: "In the case of Mrs Gilderdale, the CPS was satisfied that there was sufficient evidence to provide a realistic prospect of conviction for attempted murder...

"Mrs Gilderdale's conduct, which began as assisted suicide - namely passing morphine to her daughter so that her daughter could commit suicide - progressed to attempted murder when Mrs Gilderdale herself went on to administer morphine and other drugs and to introduce an air embolism to her daughter after her daughter had lost consciousness.

"Assisted suicide involves assisting the victim to take his or her own life.

"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.

"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."