Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Jul 21, 2023 / 15:42 pm (CNA).
A British man was found not guilty of murder in the killing of his wife, with judges ruling that the defendant instead committed manslaughter when he suffocated his spouse in an alleged act of assisted suicide.
Judges handed down the verdict on Friday in Cyprus, where 75-year-old David Hunter had been living with his wife, Janice, in retirement before smothering her with a pillow in December 2021.
Hunter, a former miner, had told the court that his wife “begged him” to end her painful suffering from blood cancer.
The defendant’s law firm, Justice Abroad — a U.K.-based concern that offers legal services to British citizens in other countries — said in a press release announcing the verdict that the court “agreed with the defense position that this was not a case of premeditated murder,” given that Hunter “had acted spontaneously to end the life of his wife of over 50 years, upon her begging him to do so because of the pain she was under.”
Michael Polak, the director of Justice Abroad, said in the release that the firm was “ecstatic” with the decision.
“This remains a tragic case,” Polak said. “Janice and David were in a loving relationship for over 50 years and it is clear that David did what he did out of love for Janice upon her request.”
Sentencing is set for July 27. Polak said the firm would be arguing for a suspended sentence “given the time David has already spent in custody, his age, and the tragic facts of this case.”
Assisted suicide, or euthanasia, is currently illegal in Cyprus, though lawmakers last year began debating the possibility of legalizing it there.
The U.K.’s National Health Service says on its website that “both euthanasia and assisted suicide are illegal under English law.” Citizens charged with euthanasia there can face either manslaughter or murder charges depending on the case.
Though intentional killing is at present illegal in the United Kingdom, the British Parliament’s Health and Social Care Committee is presently “holding an inquiry into assisted dying/assisted suicide.”
The investigation was touted as one that would “explore the arguments across the debate with a focus on the health care aspects of assisted dying/assisted suicide.” Members of Parliament are set to make recommendations on “next steps” at some point after the inquiry is ended.
The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales said in a statement in May that it had submitted evidence to the inquiry in opposition to any legalization of euthanasia in that country, arguing that “care for human life should be best understood as a ‘therapeutic art.’”
“It integrates right relations for the patient with health care workers, spiritual and pastoral chaplains, relatives, and the wider community,” the document stated, “in the context of care that, based on our recognition of the lasting love of God for all of us, protects and promotes human life until natural death.”