Skip to content

Gordon Ross

Gordon Ross took a case to the Scottish courts in 2015 to ask that the Lord Advocate publish prosecution guidelines equivalent to those of the Director of Public Prosecutions in England and Wales.

Mr Ross’ case was defeated at first instance and at appeal, but the judgment on appeal in the Court of Session  gave an explanation of the law.

Lord Carloway, at the time the Lord Justice Clerk, explained that the facts behind the Purdy judgment in the House of Lords did not feature in Scotland. He argued that there was no crime of assisted suicide and that nobody had been prosecuted for other offences linked to assisted suicide in Scotland. There was therefore no evidence that any laws were being implemented inconsistently in this area, and so no further clarification in the law was needed.

In spite of this, he did go further in his judgment to set out in clearer terms what the law is in Scotland. Lord Carloway said that providing assistance to a person with the intention of ending his or her life would not normally attract a prosecution for culpable homicide, so long as the person taking their own life was acting voluntarily.

More specifically, he stated that the act of helping and accompanying somebody to Switzerland who wished to end their life “would not be criminal if prosecuted in Scotland”.