Walter Compton not to be prosecuted for giving his wife morphine

Walter Compton not to be prosecuted for giving his wife morphine



Manchester Police PR Department are not having the best of months. Last week, Manchester Police said that they wouldn’t be prosecuting a man who was obviously not a police officer for impersonating a police officer. On 11th June 2014 they decided not to take action in the case of Walter Crompton. This would presumably be welcomed by many who felt that he should not have been even arrested.


Mr Crompton, aged 83, was visiting his wife Eileen in a Care Home when he gave her a morphine patch for pain caused by arthritis. He was presumably not authorised to do this, and it seemed to relate to medication previously prescribed to Ms Crompton for a different condition.

This was back in April and after initially being bailed with condition not to visit his wife, the police relented and allowed him to visit provided he was accompanied by a social worker.

It is not stated in the news piece, but it is understood that there was no adverse effects on Ms Compton.

What’s the offence?

It is presumably one contrary to s24 Offences Against the Person Act 1861. The offence requires some to “unlawfully and maliciously administer to or cause to be administered to or taken by any other person any poison or other destructive or noxious thing, with intent to injure, aggrieve, or annoy such person“. Here there has to be the intention to cause some harm which was obviously lacking.

Morphine is a Class A drug and illegal to possess, unless prescribed by a doctor. Here, the morphine was for Mrs Compton’s use and she legally possessed it. Mr Compton would have a defence under s5(4)(b) Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 – “that, knowing or suspecting it to be a controlled drug, he took possession of it for the purpose of delivering it into the custody of a person lawfully entitled to take custody of it and that as soon as possible after taking possession of it he took all such steps as were reasonably open to him to deliver it into the custody of such a person.

It’s a bit of a stretch, but if there had been a prosecution, the I’m sure that a jury would do the right thing. It is clear that the CPS would (or better to say ‘should’ as they’re not always reliable) not prosecute in those circumstances in any event.

Should he have been arrested?

There were more reasons to investigate here than with Mr Peers (who was not impersonating a police officer) at least. One can see why it was necessary to check that this was not an attempt by Mr Compton (well intentioned or otherwise) to end his wife’s life.

These sorts of cases can require a bit of investigation, so whilst it seems wrong on the face of it, it was necessary for the police to take some time to make sure. They should probably have been more sensitive in the bail conditions perhaps, and it is not clear whether it was necessary to have arrested him (rather than interview under caution) with all the implications that that has (the Care Home could have only allowed Mr Compton supervised access for example).

Sara is a barrister at Doughty Street Chambers practising in crime.


  1. Tricky one. Morphine is a respiratory depressant and doctors have to be very careful about giving it in combination with other sedative medications, so certainly the patient could be endangered. Yes he might have been simply trying to reduce her pain, having presumably asked staff to give her more painkillers and been told that she was already being adequately medicated, or it is just possible, remotely, that he could have been trying to off her. I suppose the police have no alternative but to investigate what might have been a case of attempted murder. It is the kind of thing you see on TV police dramas, isn’t it?