Suicide reporting

July 15th, 2013 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Chester Borrows announced:

The Law Commission will review the rules governing the media’s reporting of , Courts Minister Chester Borrows said today.

The Coroners Act 2006 currently restricts the information that can be made public about a self-inflicted death without the authorisation of the coroner.  Concern that some aspects of the restrictions are unclear was raised during the recent review of the Coroners Act.

The law says you can not publish the particulars of any suicide without the permission of the Coroner. But it is unclear if just publishing the fact a death was a suicide is a particular. The media generally hold that it is not, while health groups say it is.  I’ve certainly on a couple of occasions have reported a suicide was a suicide when it was widely known that it was, and there was no doubt.

The Law Commission is a good body to review the law, and I look forward to engaging on this issue. It is sensible that the law should be clear. For my 2c I think you should be able to call a suicide a suicide when there is no doubt about it – but I agree details of the suicide should generally not be revealed.

6 Responses to “Suicide reporting”

  1. martinh (1,460 comments) says:

    I agree. I dont think people who die by self inflicted means should be described in the same terms as those who die of natural causes. If you die of natural causes that should be clearly distinguishable in media reports from those who commit suicide

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  2. Lucia Maria (4,196 comments) says:

    I don’t get the taboo around suicides. My best friend killed herself when we were both 14 years old, and personally, it would have helped me a lot to know more about her death than I was told.

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  3. david (2,340 comments) says:

    Bit by bit, Jim Anderton’s crazy ideas get rolled back. Next should be a reversal of the infamous and counterproductive “sherry tax”.

    A blank page should be the best legacy he could leave.

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  4. RRM (12,551 comments) says:

    A person doesn’t magically become public property just because his death was suicide.

    So the default position of the law should not be that news agencies are free to publicly report “XXX killed herself” as of right.

    If a death comes before the coroner, then reporting should be minimal, beyond what the coroner and the bereaved may choose to make public.

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  5. BeaB (2,512 comments) says:

    The problem is with teenagers but I think all the sobbing, poems, teddy bears and even filing past the casket in the bedroom are far worse in romanticising suicide and perhaps giving another kid the idea.
    Teenagers rarely grasp the finality (do any of us?) but more information may give them a more realistic view than all the sentimental soppiness we seem to encourage these days.

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  6. backster (2,508 comments) says:

    All un-natural or unexpected sudden deaths have to be reported to the coronor. It is then his job to come to a decision as to the cause placed on the facts put before him. I don’t think the media should try and pre-empt him.

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