Tuesday 26 January 2010

R v Gilderdale: Attempted Murder and Assisted Suicide

Bridget Kathleen Gilderdale was cleared of attempting to murder her daughter Lynn Gilderdale by a jury at Lewes Crown Court. The judge (Mr Justice Bean) thanked the jury for their “common sense, decency and humanity.” Gilderdale had previously admitted assisting the suicide of her daughter. Miss Gilderdale was found dead at their home on 4 December, 2008 and had suffered with ME for almost 17 years (from the age of 14).

It is of some concern that the CPS pursued a charge of attempted murder and the trial judge (Mr Justice Bean) criticised the Director of Public Prosecutions. The CPS has defended its decision to prosecute for attempted murder.

Gilderdale received a 12 month conditional discharge for assisting the suicide of her daughter.

Complicity (i.e. assisting) suicide is an offence under the Suicide Act 1961 section 2 - – “A person who aids, abets, counsels or procures the suicide of another, or an attempt by another to commit suicide, shall be liable on conviction on indictment to imprisonment for a term not exceeding fourteen years.”

In R (Purdy) v DPP [2009] UKHL 45 the House of Lords held that the Director of Public Prosecutions should draw up guidelines as to the factors to be considered in the decision whether to prosecute a person under section 2. The DPP issued “interim guidance” in September 2009 and a consultation took place up to 16th December 2009.

Against this background, the handling of the Gilderdale case by the DPP/CPS has a very unsatisfactory feel about it and it seems likely that more will be heard about this in the days to come.

Addendum 1st February 2010:

From 1.2.2010, a revised Suicide Act 1961 s.2 is in force - see Coroners and Justice Act 2009 s.59 See also Ministry of Justice Circular 2010/3.


  1. As creepy as it seems to be, believe it or not, it kind of amazed me this story of Bridget Kathleen. How come a mother is going to kill his own child, her own blood. It doesn't matter the problem or disease she was going through with her daughter, that doesn't mean she's allowed to terminate her life.

    1. Until you have not been in that situation yourself you cannot judge others for their actions. One day we will all be judged.