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Suicide Act 1961

Volume 481: debated on Monday 20 October 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice what assessment he has made of the operation of section 2(1) of the Suicide Act 1961; and how many proceedings have been brought under this section since 1978. (227592)

As a result of public concern about possible links between suicide and the internet, and in line with recommendations from the Byron Review and the Law Commission, we have considered whether the law in this area could usefully be clarified. As the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice, my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Garston (Maria Eagle) told Parliament in a written ministerial statement on 17 September 2008, Official Report, column 142WS, we have concluded that the scope of the current law should not be changed but that the existing statutory language of section 2 of the Suicide Act should be simplified and modernised in a way which will make it clearer for everyone to understand.

The number of defendants proceeded against at magistrates courts for offences relating to the Suicide Act 1961 S.2(l), 1978 to 2006 can be viewed in the following table.

These data are on the principal offence basis. The figures given in the table on court proceedings relate to persons for whom these offences were the principal offence for which they were dealt with. When a defendant has been found guilty of two or more offences, the offence selected is the one for which the heaviest penalty is imposed. Where the same disposal is imposed for two or more offences, the offence selected is the offence for which the statutory maximum penalty is the most severe.

Court proceedings data for 2007 will be available in November of 2008.

Number of defendants proceeded against at magistrates’ courts for offences relating to the Suicide Act 1961 S.2(1), 1978 to 20061, 2, 3, 4

Proceeded against

1978

0

1979

0

1980

l

1981

4

1982

2

1983

2

1984

1

1985

0

1986

1

1987

2

1988

1

1989

5

1990

11

1991

1

1992

4

1993

3

1994

0

1995

3

1996

3

1997

4

1998

1

1999

2

2000

4

2001

2

2002

2

2003

3

2004

3

2005

0

2006

5

1 These data are on the principal offence basis

2 Every effort is made to ensure that the figures presented are accurate and complete.

However, it is important to note that these data have been extracted from large administrative data systems generated by the courts and police forces. As a consequence, care should be taken to ensure data collection processes and their inevitable limitations are taken into account when those data are used.

3 Includes the following statutes and corresponding offence descriptions:

Suicide Act 1961 Sec 2(1).

Suicide (Aiding, Abetting etc).

4 Staffordshire police force were only able to submit sample data for persons proceeded against and convicted in the magistrates' courts for the year 2000. Although sufficient to estimate higher orders of data, these data are not robust enough at a detailed level and have been excluded from the table.

Source:

Office for Criminal Justice Reform, Evidence and Analysis Unit - Ministry of Justice.