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Assisted suicide trial jury begins deliberations

Gail O'Rorke
Gail O'Rorke

The jury has begun its deliberations in the trial of a woman accused of trying to assist the suicide of her friend.

Gail O’Rorke (43), a taxi driver from Kilclare Gardens, Tallaght is accused of attempting to help Bernadette Forde (51) get to the Swiss euthanasia clinic Dignitas, a plan that was thwarted when the travel agent alerted gardaí.

The jurors retired just after 11am this morning after Judge Patrick McCartan addressed them and summed up the cases for the prosecution and defence.

He told jurors that the State contends that the facts in the trial are not in dispute and that the case revolves around the making of travel arrangements with a travel agent for the Zurich trip.

He said that Ms O’Rorke told the travel agent the purpose of the trip to Zurich and as a result was “caught red handed” by gardaí. He said if she had been more discreet, perhaps taking a more indirect route to Zurich, “all of this might have been avoided.”

The judge said the defence case is that Ms O’Rorke’s actions are “too remote” from the suicide itself to legally constitute aiding and abetting. He also said the defence contend that Ms O’Rorke lacked any criminal intent in booking the tickets.

Referring to the accused’s claim that she didn’t know she was committing an offence, Judge McCartan told the jury that “ignorance of the law is not a defence.”

Regarding the defence argument that gardaí did not investigate an offence after stopping Ms O’Rorke and Ms Forde from travelling, Judge McCartan said the gardaí were perfectly entitled to do this.

He said it was the entitlement of gardaí “to go down the humanitarian route” after thwarting the travel plans and to investigate the matter later after the completed suicide of Ms Forde.

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.

Ms O’Rorke has pleaded not (NOT) guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to 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.

Last week, 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 Bernadette Forde (51) to end her life.

The judge also told the jury of six men and six women to find Ms O’Rorke not guilty of “procuring” the suicide of her friend by helping to organise her funeral before her death.

Judge McCartan told jurors that he was ordering not guilty verdicts in the final two charges because he agreed with the defence’s argument that the prosecution has not produced enough evidence for the counts to go before a jury.