A request for the Director of Public Prosecutions to issue guidelines on the factors governing prosecution for assisted suicide could result in the creation of a template to commit a crime, the High Court has heard.
The submission was made by counsel for the DPP on the third day of a case by a 58-year-old Wicklow woman, who is challenging the criminal law on assisted suicide.
Marie Fleming, who is in the final stages of MS, has asked the court to declare the law criminalising assisted suicide invalid.
However, failing that, she wants the DPP to publish the criteria likely to be used in deciding on a prosecution.
Representing the DPP, Senior Counsel Paul O’Higgins said to do so would amount to telling someone how to avoid prosecution.
She was looking for a roadmap for a person to commit an indictable offence before it happens, a template for someone to commit a crime, he said.
However Mr O’Higgins accepted that a person who believed they might be prosecuted for a crime had a right communicate with the DPP and that the Director could take this into consideration after the event.
He said to issue guidelines as sought by the plaintiff would be straying into the area of legislation which is not permitted.
Counsel for the State Shane Murphy said the DPP could not give immunity from prosecution to Ms Fleming's partner Tom Curran nor could it give guidelines, which could amount to the same thing.
Any issuing of specific guidelines would be an intrusion into the law-making powers of the State and there was no basis for an entitlement to demand guidelines, he said.
The DPP could only decide whether or not to prosecute in the light of established facts, not in advance, he said.
Counsel for Ms Fleming Ronan Murphy said the submissions from the DPP did not go anywhere near narrowing the issue for this particular case and they were still unaware of whether or not the public interest would be a factor in the considerations of the DPP.
It was not enough to simply know assisted suicide was a criminal offence, he said.
"Of course a person knows it is a criminal offence but that is not the whole story," he said.
"We are not looking for prior dispensation from prosecution, we can't ask for that, but we are entitled to know whether some of the factors considered by the DPP engage the public interest".
The case has been adjourned until Tuesday.