Prosecutors decided it was not in the public interest to prosecute Neil O'Riordan for an act of "love and compassion"

By Ian Horswill

Posted on July 2, 2019

A man who helped his wife, who had advanced stages of motor neurone disease, die has had aiding suicide charges dropped.

Prosecutors decided it was not in the public interest to prosecute Neil O’Riordan for an act of “love and compassion”, ABC News reported.

O’Riordan’s wife of 25 years, Penelope Blume, died in his arms at their home on March 15. The couple had shared a last meal and sat together hugging and talking until the early hours of the morning.

In the process of taking her own life, Blume used an item modified by O’Riordan, 63, that ensured she was unconscious before she died.

He was subsequently charged with one count of aiding suicide.

The court heard O’Riordan had successfully tried to talk his wife out of taking her life on at least one occasion, and was truthful and cooperative with the investigating police officers. The court was told that his wife had wanted to take her own life before she fully lost mobility.

In dropping the charge, ACT Director of Public Prosecutions Shane Drumgold said he did not intend it to be a green light for assisted suicide in Canberra.

“Although the evidence establishes that the defendant rendered aid to the deceased, the assistance offered was minimal, motivated wholly by love and compassion, and designed to ensure that the deceased’s death was quick and painless,” Drumgold said.

“Had the defendant not made minor modifications to an item used in the suicide, death would have still resulted, however, it may have been prolonged, resulting in a highly distressing process for the deceased.”

Neil O'Riordan and his wife Penelope Blume in Thailand.

Drumgold informed the ACT Magistrates Court he had decided not to proceed with the case, tendering a statement of reasons to the court.

“The purpose of publishing these reasons is to affirm transparency and accountability in the decision-making process,” Drumgold told the court.

Drumgold said the decision to prosecute a case was a two-stage process.

The first question was whether the evidence offered a reasonable chance of securing a conviction.

Drumgold concluded there were reasonable prospects of a conviction as O’Riordan had knowledge of the impending suicide and had intentionally modified an item used to bring about his wife’s death.

The second question was one of public interest and he decided it would not be in the public interest to prosecute O’Riordan as the consequences would be “unduly harsh and oppressive in the circumstances”.