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Campaigners fail in High Court challenge over change to assisted dying policy

Disability rights campaigners have failed in their bid to appeal against a High Court decision rejecting their challenge to a change to the Director of Public Prosecution's (DPP) policy on cases of assisted dying.

DPP Alison Saunders amended the prosecution policy for assisted suicide in October 2014.

Merv and Nikki Kenward, supported by the Christian Legal Centre, said that the change in wording made it less likely that healthcare professionals would be prosecuted for assisting suicide.

Mrs Kenward was stricken by Guillain-Barre Syndrome in 1990 and left almost completely paralysed for five months, able only to blink her right eye.

The former theatre manager, who now uses a wheelchair, said that the High Court's decision in December 2015 to dismiss their application for judicial review was "bizarre" and left vulnerable people "at risk from dodgy doctors".

On Tuesday, the Court of Appeal dismissed an attempt by the Kenwards to win permission to contest that ruling.

Lord Justice Longmore, sitting with Lord Justice Kitchin, said it would be "futile" to grant permission as the inevitable result would be that the High Court decision would be upheld.

"Although it does raise difficult and delicate issues, it does seem entirely inappropriate that the case should go any further."

The Kenwards, from Aston on Clun, Shropshire, said they were "disappointed" with the outcome.

The Suicide Act 1961 makes it a criminal offence to assist or encourage suicide, with a penalty of up to 14 years' imprisonment.

The DPP has discretion on whether to prosecute according to the policy.

In the High Court, Sir Brian Leveson said: "The policy does not remove bright lines where previously they existed and no assistance or encouragement is rendered lawful that was previously unlawful."

He said that the gradation between circumstances in which it would be appropriate to prosecute in an assisted dying case and those in which it was not would always involve "a very detailed consideration of all the facts and, ultimately, a balanced judgment."

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