Law Commission proposed relaxing suicide reporting ban

April 1st, 2014 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Law Commission has released a paper on the current restrictions for reporting. Their release says:

The is recommending revising the restrictions in the Coroners Act 2006 regarding reporting suicide.  The new restrictions would be limited to public comment by any person of the method of the suicide death, the place of the suicide where it is suggestive of the method and the fact that the death is a suicide. However, a death would be able to be described as “suspected suicide” where that is supported by the facts. 

That seems a sensible way forward. It is farcical that very obvious suicides have euphemisms such as “no suspicious circumstances” attached to them as a code. Plus of course social media means that there is usually considerable discussion on such suicides (for better or worse) such as Charlotte Dawson’s. Of course as hers was in Australia it could be openly reported here.

The important thing is not giving details, which it is proposed remain prohibited unless released by a Coroner. A key finding is:

We are satisfied that there is widespread agreement amongst experts in this field and world authorities, such as the World Health Organisation, that media reporting can lead to copycat suicidal behaviour by vulnerable people.

Reporting the details of a suicide is protected by the right to freedom of expression in section 14 of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990. We have concluded that despite extensive evidence of a link between suicide reporting and copycat behaviour, it is only the evidence linking the reporting of the method of suicide to subsequent suicidal behaviour that is strong enough to justify a statutory restriction.

Again I agree.

Hopefully the Government will take up the recommendations at some stage.

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11 Responses to “Law Commission proposed relaxing suicide reporting ban”

  1. burt (8,269 comments) says:

    Jolly Jim will be having fits about this…. Imagine if we stop banning all drugs and allow reporting of suicide… He’ll have to face reality !

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  2. ChardonnayGuy (1,206 comments) says:

    So, how will this be affected by the proposed amendment of Section 179 of the Crimes Act to render ‘inciting someone to commit suicide’ a criminal offence? And what evidence-based research exists to warrant relaxing restrictions on reporting suicide without the risk of copycat incidents by vulnerable people?

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  3. mikenmild (11,247 comments) says:

    It’s a 70-page report Chardonnay Guy. Maybe you could read it and report back to us.

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  4. anticorruptionnz (215 comments) says:

    We Fence swimming pools , we reduce road speed limits all in the interest of saving lives but each year more people commit suicide than the road toll and the drownings put together.

    Far more needs to be done with regards to suicide , reporting it is a great start and while we are at it why not show the pressures that these poor souls were under, how many were before the court in civil matters with some one stripping away their total life’s savings, How may are victims of injustice/ bullying by corporates etc.

    Let’s start keeping statistics to the same degree as we do on road deaths and drowning. Then when we do we may be able to isolate the cause of it , but will the powers that be want to know ?

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  5. burt (8,269 comments) says:

    And what evidence-based research exists to warrant relaxing restrictions on reporting suicide without the risk of copycat incidents by vulnerable people?

    Yes that’s how it works. Depressed and unhappy people sit around thinking what can I do about this … they will read a news item that says “committed suicide” rather than “no suspicious circumstances” and think hey … I never though of topping myself … how did they do that again ….

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  6. Tautaioleua (305 comments) says:

    I was in South Korea not long ago. They have some of the highest suicide figures in all of the OECD. Sadly, suicide is never reported and is never discussed.

    There appears to be a connection between suicide prevalence and social taboo. The more you talk about it, the more likely you are to make progress in reducing it. It is social isolation that encourages those contemplating suicide – not talking about it works in their favour.

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  7. anticorruptionnz (215 comments) says:

    lets ignore it and it will go away.. we have a sad attitude

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  8. Nuwanda (83 comments) says:

    If a person overdosed themselves, it’s “permissible” to report the suicide but not the method? And this is regarded as an important exception to the “right” of free speech? If it’s proper to restrict reporting the method of suicide for fear of copycat suicides, isn’t it proper to forbid the reporting of the method of murder for fear of copycat murders? How about the method of a burglary?

    It’s pretty pathetic that we have a so-called Bill of Rights that protects freedom of speech yet many (including DPF) blithely accept statutory restrictions upon it. Why not stop the hypocrisy and call it what it is: restricted speech. And those that are quite willing to accept the outlawing of free speech on such spurious grounds should stop posing as free speech advocates.

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  9. Judith (8,534 comments) says:

    Why don’t we just put a hell of a lot more effort into finding out why so many people, especially young men, and increasingly now, young women chose to die rather than live?

    Change all the damn laws you like, but nothing will be effective until you actually make some solid in roads into why this happens.

    You can ban the media from talking about it, but those that knew the victim, their friends, family and others, that tend to follow using copycat behaviour, already know how it happened. They are the people that are in the most danger of doing the same, and preventing the media from publishing causes doesn’t help them.

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  10. Zapper (1,021 comments) says:

    Didn’t “Jolly Jim’s” daughter commit suicide? If that’s the case, he gets a free pass from me on this as a mourning parent. Luckily mourning parents can’t singlehandedly make laws.

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  11. Scott (1,797 comments) says:

    No you are all wrong. Talking about it makes it more acceptable and there is definitely such a thing as copy cat behaviour. The ban should stay.

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