It's still murder - 'putting someone out of their misery'

Judge Barker told Frances Inglis: 'What you did was to take upon yourself what you thought your son's wishes would have been, to relieve him from what you described as a living hell...."

For those of you who may doubt whether it is wrong to take the law into your own hands and impose your wishes upon someone else, albeit your own son, then think again. Despite the emotionally charged difficulties of the charge of murder against Frances Inglis, this was not an assisted suicide which fell within the parameters of the interim policy statement issued by Keir Starmer QC, the director of Public Prosecutions following the former House of Lord's declaration issued as a result of the case brought by Debbie Purdy.  There was no "clear settled and informed wish" to commit suicide as far as we can tell from the evidence.

Judge Brian Barker told Frances Inglis, herself a trainee nurse 'you cannot take the law into your hands' as he jailed her for life yesterday for giving her brain-damaged son a lethal heroin overdose.  Judge Brian Barker told Mrs Inglis: 'You cannot take away life, however compelling you think the reason.'

As many of you will already know, as the charge was one of murder the trial judge had no option but to impose a mandatory life sentence but the trial judge is allowed some discretion under the sentencing guidelines.  Judge Barker imposed a minimum jail term of nine years.  As Inglis has already served 423 days on remand, the period spent on remand will be deducted from her sentence - this could effectively mean that she could be eligible for parole in seven and a half years.

Mrs Inglis's son Thomas was left in a deep coma after hitting his head on the road when he plunged from a moving ambulance.  He was aged 21.

Judge Barker went on to say to the defendant: 'You were a devoted mother highly regarded for your work in the community'.

The trial judge will have set out what he will have considered the minimum sentence to be, having regard to sentencing guidelines.  In most cases the starting point is 15 years.  The judge then adds or subtracts years depending upon the seriousness of the killing.  The belief that the murder was an act of mercy is regarded as a mitigating factor.

The former Lord Chief Justice indicated, when he set the guidelines back in 2002, that the appropriate minimum term in the case of a mercy killing was 8 or 9 years.

The court heard that there was the possibility of an application being made to the High Court for a declaration allowing the doctors to stop treating Thomas but such an application had not been made.  We now know that if such an application is made then the family of the person concerned would have been involved in that legal process in accordance with the principles set down in the case of AirdaleNHS Trust v Bland (1993).

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