Clauses Noted: 5
Publication: Wiltshire Gazette & Herald
A woman complained to the Press Complaints Commission that an article published in the Wiltshire Gazette and Herald on 6 September 2012 contained excessive detail about a method of suicide in breach of Clause 5 (Intrusion into grief or shock) of the Editors' Code of Practice.
The complaint was upheld.
The article reported an inquest hearing into the death of a man, who had taken his own life. It included details of the type of gas involved, the manner in which it had been inhaled and the state in which he had been discovered. The complainant said that the detail included was explicit and technical, and had caused distress to his family and friends.The newspaper said that it had endeavoured to be sensitive to the family's wishes in reporting the death, and at their request had not published a story at the time of the death. The details it published had been placed in the public domain through the inquest, and their omission would have prevented it from fully explaining the coroner's verdict.
Clause 5 (ii) of the Editors' Code of Practice was introduced in 2006 to address concerns that press reporting can contribute to copycat suicides.
Inquests will generally include a high level of detail about the method of death. Newspapers are entitled to report inquests in cases of suicide, but in doing so must take care to limit the level of detail involved to avoid breaching the terms of Clause 5.
In this instance, the article contained the name of the gas with which the man had taken his life, how it had been obtained, and the manner in which it had been inhaled. The Commission concluded that, taken together, this level of detail was excessive. It upheld the complaint.
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