Tuesday 20 March 2018

Jury in assisted suicide trial told accused faced an 'immense dilemma'

On trial: Gail O’Rorke
On trial: Gail O’Rorke
Dearbhail McDonald

Dearbhail McDonald

The jury in the trial of a woman accused of attempting to help a friend with multiple sclerosis (MS) take her own life will resume its deliberations today.

The jury of six men and six women have spent just over three-and-a-half hours deliberating a single charge against Dublin taxi driver Gail O'Rorke (43) that she attempted to help her friend Bernadette Forde (51) travel to the Dignitas euthanasia clinic in Zurich, Switzerland.

The trial of Ms O'Rorke has heard that the plan to travel to Dignitas was thwarted in 2011 when a travel agent alerted gardaí.

In the first prosecution of its kind in Ireland, Ms O'Rorke of Kilclare Gardens, Tallaght, was initially charged with three counts under the Criminal Law (Suicide) Act 1993.

The 22-year-old law decriminalised the act of suicide but makes it an offence to assist or attempt to assist a suicide.

Last Friday, trial judge Mr Justice Patrick McCartan directed that Ms O'Rorke be found not guilty on two of three charges.

Ms O'Rorke remains accused of attempting to help Ms Forde travel to Zurich.

Ms O'Rorke denied attempting to aid and abet the suicide of Ms Forde by means of attempting to arrange travel to Zurich for such purpose between March 10 and April 20, 2011.

Ms Forde, who suffered with primary progressive MS for 10 years - and whose condition was aggravated by injuries sustained in a car accident - ended her life in June 2011 by taking a lethal dose of medication bought on the internet.

Ms O'Rorke, who was both a friend and carer of Ms Forde, was warned by gardaí it would be an offence to travel with her friend to Zurich. She was later charged with attempting to assist a suicide for making those travel arrangements.

Charging the jury at Dublin's Circuit Criminal Court, Judge McCartan said that Gail O'Rorke is a "faithful, honest and decent woman" who faced an "immense dilemma".

But the judge told the jury that the case was not about emotion.

"You must be fair, you must be objective," he said.

Last Friday, the jury was ordered to find Ms O'Rorke not guilty on two of the three charges against her.

Following legal argument, Judge McCartan ordered the jury to acquit Ms O'Rorke of ordering a lethal dose of barbiturates from Mexico, which were later taken by Ms Forde to end her life.

The judge also told the jury to find Ms O'Rorke not guilty of "procuring" the suicide of her friend by helping to organise her funeral before her death.

At the outset of his charge, Judge McCartan urged the jury to bring common sense and their everyday experience to their deliberations.

The judge told the jury that Ms O'Rorke is entitled to the presumption of innocence and that no inference should be taken from her not giving evidence.

He said that where a doubt arose in fact, the jury should give the benefit of the doubt to the accused.

The trial continues.

Irish Independent

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