Charges dropped against columnist Messent over mercy killing claim

Prosecutors have dropped a charge of wasting police time brought against Birmingham Mail columnist Maureen Messent who claimed to have carried out the mercy killing of her great aunt.

Messent wrote about the "mercy killing" in a front page article in the Birmingham Mail and had been due to appear before magistrates in the city.

Devon and Cornwall CPS brought the charge against the 67-year-old after a police investigation showed she had been covering a story in the West Midlands when she was supposed to have administered a lethal overdose of morphine to her relative in Devon.

"The investigation showed that she had been nowhere near her elderly relative at the relevant time and in fact was covering a story in the West Midlands, as revealed by newspaper records of the time," a CPS spokesman said.

The case was first listed at Torbay Magistrates Court but subsequently transferred to Birmingham Magistrates' court because Messent was too ill to travel to Devon. She was subsequently unable, through ill-health, to appear in court in Birmingham.

The CPS spokesman added: "The CPS has an obligation to keep cases under review, and when the defence presents new evidence, the CPS must take this into account.

"Following the receipt of medical evidence from the defence, the Crown Prosecution Service in Devon and Cornwall reviewed the case and has decided not to proceed."

Messent was charged under the Criminal Law Act 1967 with making false reports by means of a newspaper article and a radio interview.

Birmingham Mail editor Steve Dyson said:
“This decision has been far too long in coming. I’m certain that had the CPS
proceeded Maureen would have been totally acquitted.

“I am now very glad that they have finally
seen sense. Maureen is a fantastic writer and will continue in her crucial role
commenting on affairs for the Birmingham Mail.

“Maureen has been stressed by this needless
prosecution but that aside she is fighting fit and will be writing her comment
this week.”

Writing in February this year, Messent, who was educated at a convent school in Teignmouth, Devon, claimed to have killed her terminally-ill aunt, Eileen O'Sullivan, in the late 1960s and said she had decided to reveal the circumstances surrounding the death because of potential changes in the laws on euthanasia.

Writing in the Mail a week later, Messent added: "The week that has passed has seen me both regretting my honesty and, at the same time, telling myself that I was right to bring up the past in public to enrich a debate that many feel must be had."

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