BRITAIN/Catholic bishops in England and Wales warned against people thinking they may be exempt from prosecution in assisting suicide after new guidelines were issued.

The  Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) set out the guidelines in September in an attempt to bring greater clarity to the thorny issue of prosecution, inviting comments during a consultation period.

Suicide is still against the law in Britain, but the high-profile case of multiple sclerosis sufferer Debbie Purdy, from Bradford, northern England, who has sought clarification on whether her husband would be prosecuted if he helped her go abroad to die, has been an impetus for the guidelines. 

They set out a range of factors influencing whether a person would face prosecution or not. In favour of prosecution would be if there were a financial motive involved, pressure put on the individual into committing suicide and if the person wanting to die was suffering from mental illness.

Factors against prosecution would include whether the suspect was motivated wholly by compassion and was a spouse, partner, close relative or personal friend.