Spouse walks free after admitting culpable homicide. Implications if any re assisted dying debate?

Lumpy Talbot

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A very unusual case where a woman in Scotland facilitated a suicide attempt by her husband and then interpreted his last words as a plea to help him on his way, then suffocated him with a cushion. There were considerable extenuating circumstances so I would urge a read of the linked article.

The judge dismissed the case and instructed the defendant walk free from court and said that she 'should get on with her life'.

Wife walks free after killing husband - BBC News

A very distinctive case and while I'd suggest this would not be considered as a precedent in Scottish or indeed UK law it appears extenuating circumstances were taken into account by the court.

What would your judgement have been? I have to say I agree with the judge in this case.
 


Lumpy Talbot

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Thinking a little further I suspect much of this case in terms of bald evidence, apart from the context and background, would rest on an interpretation of the words 'help me' from the husband.

If you interpret that as a plea for medical assistance to stave off death then the wife should have been pronounced guilty of culpable manslaughter.

If one interprets the words 'help me' as an admission by the husband of his signalled wish to end his life then it could be interpreted as an act of mercy to have applied the coup de grace.

Clearly the court opted for the latter interpretation. But now that a court in the UK- and I am aware that Scotland has a different legal system to the rest of the UK- has granted extenuating circumstances and accepted the wife's account of the last moments is this something that could be interpreted elsewhere as an acceptable set of conditions for a mercy killing?
 

Trainwreck

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A very unusual case where a woman in Scotland facilitated a suicide attempt by her husband and then interpreted his last words as a plea to help him on his way, then suffocated him with a cushion. There were considerable extenuating circumstances so I would urge a read of the linked article.

The judge dismissed the case and instructed the defendant walk free from court and said that she 'should get on with her life'.

Wife walks free after killing husband - BBC News

A very distinctive case and while I'd suggest this would not be considered as a precedent in Scottish or indeed UK law it appears extenuating circumstances were taken into account by the court.

What would your judgement have been? I have to say I agree with the judge in this case.

Meh...

The standard sentence for a woman attempting to murder a man.


"Extraordinary" student Lavinia Woodward who was spared jail after stabbing her ex-boyfriend could return to Oxford University

Leaving court, full of remorse and thanking her lucky stars she escaped the violent Patriarchy.





The "Patriarchy" eh?
 

ShoutingIsLeadership

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When she got back, she noticed her husband had taken some of the medication and was struggling to breathe.

She helped him to bed and as his breathing worsened he said to her: "Help me."

Mr McVicar said: "She took that as a request that she should help him to die.

"She describes feeling only compassion for him and thinking that this had to stop.

"She then smothered him by placing a cushion over his face and holding it there with some degree of force restricting his breathing until he died."

Afterwards Mrs Wilson dialled 999 and confessed to police.

WTF?

Reads like a murder. Would be interesting to see the reaction if the roles had been reversed
 

Lumpy Talbot

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An unexpected interpretation of the case, to my mind. I think on reading the article one would have to wade through a lot of grim context before deciding the court was ruling on the basis of gender...
 

Lumpy Talbot

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When she got back, she noticed her husband had taken some of the medication and was struggling to breathe.

She helped him to bed and as his breathing worsened he said to her: "Help me."

Mr McVicar said: "She took that as a request that she should help him to die.

"She describes feeling only compassion for him and thinking that this had to stop.

"She then smothered him by placing a cushion over his face and holding it there with some degree of force restricting his breathing until he died."

Afterwards Mrs Wilson dialled 999 and confessed to police.

WTF?

Reads like a murder. Would be interesting to see the reaction if the roles had been reversed
I believe originally the charge mooted was that of murder but it seems to have been reduced to 'culpable homicide' before the court.
 

Lumpy Talbot

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When she got back, she noticed her husband had taken some of the medication and was struggling to breathe.

She helped him to bed and as his breathing worsened he said to her: "Help me."

Mr McVicar said: "She took that as a request that she should help him to die.

"She describes feeling only compassion for him and thinking that this had to stop.

"She then smothered him by placing a cushion over his face and holding it there with some degree of force restricting his breathing until he died."

Afterwards Mrs Wilson dialled 999 and confessed to police.

WTF?

Reads like a murder. Would be interesting to see the reaction if the roles had been reversed
I believe originally the charge mooted was that of murder but it seems to have been reduced to 'culpable homicide' before the court.
 

ShoutingIsLeadership

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I believe originally the charge mooted was that of murder but it seems to have been reduced to 'culpable homicide' before the court.
There seems to have been zero independent evidence or evidence from the deceased, to help to suggest that it was an assisted suicide
 

Lumpy Talbot

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There seems to have been zero independent evidence or evidence from the deceased, to help to suggest that it was an assisted suicide
The court seemed to accept that the interpretation of his final words were to assist him in dying. What probably bolstered the defendants case was the immediate telephoning of police to admit what had happened.

It may be in this case the defendant satisfied the court that she was a dependable witness as well as a defendant. That would be my thinking based on the reporting of the case so far.
 

ShoutingIsLeadership

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The court seemed to accept that the interpretation of his final words were to assist him in dying. What probably bolstered the defendants case was the immediate telephoning of police to admit what had happened.

It may be in this case the defendant satisfied the court that she was a dependable witness as well as a defendant. That would be my thinking based on the reporting of the case so far.
I think it's possible that the judge didn't want to jail her for killing a sexual abuser
 

Dame_Enda

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Another example of trial by media (of the dead man). The article says some carers stopped coming because of the abuse allegations. He wasnt even convicted of anything. Another blot on the British justice system.

Having said that it does seem he wanted to die so I agree with the judge letting her go.
 

Lumpy Talbot

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This sentence is quite short but I suspect there is a lot behind it. We don't know if any of the accusers were family members but it seems there was little doubt about the accusations in her mind.

"Mrs Wilson accepted the accusations against her husband were true, but continued to live in the same house to provide constant care."
 

Lumpy Talbot

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Undoubtedly the mental state of the woman was a factor in the court's decision. The context and background of the pressures on her must have been enormous.

Curious mention of the husband telephoning one of his alleged victims. How would he have the number if it wasn't someone they already knew well?
 

ShoutingIsLeadership

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Another example of trial by media (of the dead man). The article says some carers stopped coming because of the abuse allegations. He wasnt even convicted of anything. Another blot on the British justice system.

Having said that it does seem he wanted to die so I agree with the judge letting her go.
What evidence is there that he wanted to die? Anything documented?

I am not against assisted suicide, but an area of concern surrounds people impulsively making such a decision...at best this case seems to be one of an impulsive decision by the deceased...at worst it is murder.
 

mr_anderson

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If euthanasia was legal this wouldn't happen.
It's the equivalent to a backroom abortion.

It needs to be legalised and regulated so there's absolutely no ambiguity whatsoever.
People do want to die at a time of their choosing.
We need to accommodate these circumstances.
 

CookieMonster

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Another example of trial by media (of the dead man). The article says some carers stopped coming because of the abuse allegations. He wasnt even convicted of anything. Another blot on the British justice system.

Having said that it does seem he wanted to die so I agree with the judge letting her go.
How do you know it had anything to do with the Media?
 

edg

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I hear its quite common for people who attempt suicide by taking pills to regret it soon after and call an ambulance.
If I ever reach such a miserable state I must remember to say "ambulance" to my wife and not "help me".
What a messed up case. I wonder how many times this will be used as a murder defence after this precedence. Can Scottish spouses now do away with their partners by pouring a bottle of pills down the toilet and smother them in their sleep? Then claim they thought they were only helping? That it was just a mistake?
It doesn't sit right with me. Scottish law is a bit off the wall in all fairness though.
 

Sync

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Yeah I mean there’s a LOT in that story that can equally be interpreted as “motive” as more altruistic reasons. If there’s evidence he took the pills then I get it.

But from what’s there: woman finds out the man she stood by when everyone else left is in fact really really guilty. Furious, She assaults him. Tablets she obtained that he couldn’t reach get in his system. She returns home to find him alive. Finishes the job with a pillow.

But how do you prove that she forced him to ingest? Particularly given the past suicide effort? It looks incredibly dodgy, but that’s some way short of a “guilty” finding. Would more likely have fallen into “notnproven” if they’d pushed it.
 

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