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Authorities from Australia, Britain, the US, Italy, New Zealand, and Canada are investigating a Canadian chef who is accused of selling ‘suicide kits’ to at risk people worldwide, with the venture linked to numerous deaths.

57-year-old Kenneth Law has been accused of selling a poisonous substance, which is commonly used in food preparation in small quantities, to suicidal people.

It is alleged that he has done this over a two-year period, with his conduct now subject to a multi-agency probe.

In Australia, the Federal Police, Border Force, and state police have reported that at least 10 packages containing the substance have been sent to Australians, leading to deaths.

Law was arrested and charged by Canadian Police on 2 May 2023 with two counts of counselling or aiding suicide, following two deaths that occurred in Ontario.

Police local to the Ontario region have reported that they have uncovered evidence of Law sending 1,200 packages across 40 countries.

At this stage, he has been linked to at least 20 people’s deaths across the world, including one US teenager and 13 residents of the UK.

The scheme was uncovered following an investigation by an undercover reporter at ‘The Times’ newspaper who posed as a prospective buyer.

He is alleged to have told the reporter that “many, many, many, many” of his customers were dead, and that he began selling the substance after his mother suffered a stroke.

“We’re not advanced enough as a civilisation to accept death openly. I hope I’m just being a little bit more enlightened.” said Law.

The substance is typically used as a food additive and when processing meat, albeit in a much more diluted form. News organisations have refrained from naming the substance due to the sensitivity of the matter.

As it is used in food preparation, the substance is not banned at the Australian border, which makes it difficult for authorities to prevent it from entering the country.

Here is more on voluntary assisted dying in Australia.

Is it Illegal to Commit or Attempt to Commit Suicide in Australia?

In Australia, committing suicide or attempting to do so is no longer an offence. However, assisting or counselling someone else to commit suicide remains an offence across the country.

In New South Wales, the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW) was only amended in 1983 to abolish the crimes of suicide and attempted suicide.

Is it Illegal to Aid or Abet a Person’s Suicide?

However, it remains an offence to aid or abet another person’s suicide or attempted suicide, as per section 31C(1). A maximum penalty of 10 years imprisonment is applicable.

Furthermore, it is also an offence to incite or counsel another person to commit suicide, where that person commits, or attempts to commit, suicide as a consequence of that incitement or counsel.

A maximum penalty of 5 years imprisonment is applicable.

The Act provides that whilst the survivor of a suicide pact will not be guilty of murder or manslaughter, they may be guilty of an offence under the section previously outlined.

A ‘suicide pact’ is an agreement between 2 or more persons which has the common purpose of all dying. In order for conduct to be deemed in connection with such a pact, it has to be done while the relevant person has the settled intention of dying, in pursuance of the pact.

There are also Commonwealth offences (which apply Australia-wide) under the Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth) related to counselling suicide and suicide-related material.

These include using a carriage service for suicide related material or to incite or counsel suicide.

A carriage service includes services for carrying out communications via ‘guided or unguided electromagnetic energy’. This essentially refers to communications via telephone and those related to the internet such as social media, messaging platforms, and email.

The Act also criminalises possessing, controlling, producing, supplying, or obtaining suicide related material for use through a carriage service, as per section 474.29B.

To fall under the offence, the material must directly or indirectly counsel or incite committing or attempting to commit suicide, promote a particular method or provide instructions on a particular method of committing suicide.

The person that has that possession or control, or engages in that production, supply or obtaining, of the material must have the intention to use the material or have another person utilise it.

A maximum penalty of a conviction and $275,000 fine (1,000 penalty units x the current value of $275) is applicable to these offences.

Published on 19/06/2023

AUTHOR Poppy Morandin

Poppy Morandin is the managing law clerk and an integral part of the team of criminal lawyers at Criminal Defence Lawyers Australia . She's also a part of CDLA's content article production team. Poppy is passionate about law reform and criminal justice.

View all posts by Poppy Morandin