THE devastated wife of a Chalfont St Peter man who ended his life at the Dignitas clinic in Switzerland has slammed “ignorant” comments from a former supreme court justice.

Jonathan Sumption QC, who retired from the bench last December, defended people who break the law on assisted dying but urged them to face up to the consequences of their actions.

His comments came during the opening speech of this year’s BBC Reith Lectures - and Ann Whaley, the wife of Geoff, 80, who took his own life at Dignitas in February, was in the audience.

Ann asked, regarding the blanket ban on assisted dying, “when we have a broken law that is causing such a great deal of suffering, where else do we turn but the courts if our politicians refuse to act?”

Sumption said he understood her concern but did not accept that decisions on such controversial matters had to be taken by judges.

He added: “I think the law should continue to criminalise assisted suicide, and I think that the law should be broken from time to time.”

Mrs Whaley - who was investigated by police following her husband’s death - said the law is “causing real damage”.

She said: “Lord Sumption’s suggestion that the law should stay as it is but that it should be broken from time to time is completely ignorant of the reality faced by dying people and their loved ones.

“My family and I have experienced first-hand the effects of our cruel, outdated law. Our world was plunged into chaos when the police were anonymously notified of our plan to accompany my terminally ill husband to Dignitas. I was interviewed under caution and we were terrified that Geoffrey might be stopped from travelling, or that I might be arrested.

“We were fortunate enough to have the funds to make the journey to Switzerland, and had family and friends who were willing to risk prosecution to help Geoff get there, but this is simply not the case for most people.

“We need a law that shows compassion to terminally ill people by allowing them control over their death, while ensuring potentially vulnerable people are protected.”