It was a bit unexpected when the attorney-general’s office announced at the end of last week that it would be appealing the verdict and sentence handed down to Briton David Hunter for suffocating his severely ill wife Janice in December 2021.

The decision sparked surprise and outrage both here and in the UK. The couple’s family said they were devastated. Hunter had been tried for premediated murder, but the three-bench court had instead convicted him on the lesser charge of manslaughter and sentenced him to time served – the two years he had spent in custody.

The AG’s office said they would not comment on the reasoning behind the appeal as the case was ongoing. If found guilty of premeditated murder in a new trial, Hunter faces a life sentence.

The AG’s office had ten days to file an appeal – which was submitted on Thursday. Due process now means the Supreme Court will decide if there is a case.

The only reason the AG’s office could want to appeal would be over the concern that the case would send a precedent for other murders being presented in court as mercy killings. It may be a valid point legalistically, but, it is highly unlikely, especially if the House, in view of this case, picks up speed in passing laws on assisted dying.

The tragedy here is that when that does eventually happen, it will be too late for David Hunter. The topic is still at committee since discussions opened in October 2021, only two months before Janice Hunter died, when it could have already been in place had MPs had the foresight to bring it to the table much earlier on.

The second failure on the part of those who govern us is the lack of a proper system of palliative care for end-of life patients, most of the work being left to voluntary groups and a handful of hospices. A past article in the Journal of Palliative Care & Medicine paints a very unflattering picture of the situation in Cyprus in this regard. The Hunters were left to fend for themselves.

The couple’s daughter, Lesley Cawthorne told the Cyprus Mail before the trial began this year that dealing with acute pain and terminal illness took an enormous toll on their mental health. It is well known that family carers, untrained in looking after a terminally ill person, can suffer from extreme mental and physical stress. Who will hold the state accountable for these failures that caused a man to kill his wife out of desperation?

Also, ultimately, if the AG wins the right to try him again on charges of premediated murder, in this particular case at least, wouldn’t it be tantamount to imposing the death penalty given David Hunter’s advanced age?

Aren’t there plenty of other people walking around in Cyprus that should be in jail but they’re not? The AG’s office should focus on some of them instead and let this one go in the spirit – if not the letter – of the law.