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  1. Media Law
October 20, 2008

Daily Sport censured by PCC for suicide hotspots story

By Press Gazette

The Daily Sport newspaper breached the Editors’ Code of Practice by publishing a story which contained excessive detail about ways of committing suicide and listing “suicide hotspots” – places where there were high numbers of suicides – the Press Complaints Commission has held.

Dougie Paterson of Choose Life, a Scottish Government initiative aimed at reducing suicides, complained that the article, headlined “The top yourself 10”, which appeared in the Daily Sport on May 30, contained excessive detail about the methods used in suicide in breach of Clause 5 (Intrusion into grief or shock) of the Code.

The article, which followed the release by British Transport Police of information that a stretch of railway line had claimed 25 lives in three years, listed of the 10 most popular “suicide hotspots” in the UK.

Paterson said the newspaper had given unnecessary detail which might encourage vulnerable people to visit the places shown and take their own lives, and that the article was highly irresponsible.

The newspaper said it was aware of the seriousness and sensitivity surrounding mental health issues, and considered the article was a fair and balanced factual report in the public interest, based on information in the public domain.

Upholding the complaint, the PCC said Clause 5 (ii) of the code states that when reporting suicide, care should be taken to avoid excessive detail about the method used to prevent “copycat” suicides.

It said: “The problem with this case was that it was an entirely gratuitous guide to where individuals have killed themselves, and explicitly pointed out to people that there were a number of options about how and where to attempt suicide. This was clearly excessive in the context.

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“The commission was also concerned that the light-hearted presentation of the piece – which referred, for instance, to one bridge as being a ‘well-known favourite for Britain’s top-yourself tourists’ – may have glamorised suicide in the eyes of some readers.

“As the code is designed to minimise the chances of imitative suicides, this was a further breach of the code.”

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