DORSET'S Police and Crime Commissioner is backing a new campaign which calls for a review into assisted dying laws.

Martyn Underhill suggested current legislation was doing 'more harm than good'.

Assisting a suicide in this country is a crime, punishable by up to 14 years in prison.

There were four recorded crimes of ‘aiding and abetting a suicide’ in Dorset between April 2012 and July 2019, according to a Freedom of Information request.

Campaigners say dying people are not suicidal and there should be an option for people to control their death to end the suffering.

The organisation Dignity in Dying has launched a campaign, Compassion is Not a Crime, which is pressing for an inquiry into the impact of the current law, which it claims "cruelly criminalises acts of compassion towards dying loved ones".

Dignity in Dying campaigns within the law for greater choice, control and access to services at the end of life.

Former Justice Secretary David Gauke expressed support for a call for evidence on assisted dying laws last year. This was backed by cross-party MPs in a Commons debate.

In October, Mr Underhill was among 18 PCCs who wrote to the current Justice Secretary, Robert Buckland, to express their concerns regarding current laws. This was led by the former PCC for Durham, Ron Hogg, who used his final months to call for reform on assisted dying before his death from motor neurone disease in December.

Mr Underhill said: “It is deeply concerning that our assisted dying laws may be doing more harm than good. Banning the practice merely drives it underground or overseas; it creates a two-tier system where only those who are wealthy enough to go to (Dignitas in) Switzerland can avail themselves of this option; and there is a scattergun approach to enforcing the law, where there is either no scrutiny at all or families are forced to endure intrusive investigations at great cost to the public purse.

“Ron was sadly unable to live to see the change he so desperately wanted, but his powerful words live on. I hope the Justice Secretary will honour his commitment to meet with me in Ron’s place and give law-enforcers the opportunity to offer our valuable insight. It’s time to investigate our broken laws, not innocent families.”

Sarah Wootton, Chief Executive of Dignity in Dying, said: “Compassion should not be a crime, but under the UK’s blanket ban on assisted dying, it is. Not only are dying people denied the right to die on their own terms, forcing them to resort to drastic measures at home and abroad, but their family members are then criminalised for acts of love.

“An inquiry would enable the views of those most affected to be heard - terminally ill people, their loved ones, the police and other public services. We call on the Justice Secretary, Robert Buckland, to launch a call for evidence as a matter of urgency. Our outdated assisted dying laws deserve to be scrutinised, not dying people or their loving families."