Sunday 24 September 2017

Marie Fleming says state should pay her legal costs

Marie Fleming with her partner Tom Curran at at their home in Co Wiclkow
Pic:Mark Condren
3.5.2013
Marie Fleming with her partner Tom Curran at at their home in Co Wiclkow Pic:Mark Condren 3.5.2013

Tim Healy

A WOMAN who failed in a landmark case challenging a blanket ban on assisted suicide says the State should pay the substantial legal costs of her unsuccessful legal action.

A hearing on the application for costs by Marie Fleming will take place in October in the Supreme Court.

 

Counsel for Ms Fleming asked the seven judge court yesterday to exercise its exceptional jurisdiction to make an order for costs in favour of Ms Fleming despite the fact she had failed in her action.

 

Counsel for the State asked for the costs matter to be adjourned for hearing at a later date arising from a misunderstanding by his side the matter was for mention only yesterday and not for hearing.

 

Chief Justice Susan Denham said this was obviously a very important application and the court would like to have legal submissions from the sides in relation to the exceptional circumstances in which costs orders could be awarded to a losing party.

 

The judge fixed dates for those submissions to be provided with a view to a hearing on the costs issue in October.

 

Ms Fleming (59), living in Co Wicklow, was not in court today. She is in the final stages of Multiple Sclerosis and, in her proceedings,  sought corders permitting her to be lawfully assisted to have a peaceful and dignified death at a time of her choice without the risk of prosecution for anyone who helped her.

 

When a three judge High Court rejected her case last January, she appealed to the Supreme Court against the findings the blanket ban did not breach her rights under the Constitution and European Convention on Human Rights.

 

She did not appeal a finding the DPP had no power to issue guidlines as to what factors would be considered when deciding whether or not to prosecute cases of assisted suicide.

 

The High Court had said it hoped the DPP would adopt a "humane" approach in Ms Fleming's case.

 

Last April, the seven judge Supreme Court ruled the right to life under the Constitution "does not import a right to die" in  what it described as this "very tragic case".

 

The court noted suicide was decriminalised here under the Criminal Law (Suicide) Act 1993 but Section 2.2 of that Act made it an offence to assist a suicide.

 

The fact suicide ceased to be a crime did not establish a constitutional right to suicide and there was "no explicit right" in the Constitution to either commit suicide or determine the time of one's own death that the State and courts must protect and vindicate, the Chief Justice, giving the court's judgment, said.

 

The right Ms Fleming claimed necessarily extended to a right to have life terminated by another in a case of total incapacity, "would sweep very far indeed", she added. 

 

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