Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Northern Ireland police chief 'shocked' by Sunday World's front page 'suicide' picture

The Chief Constable of the Police Service of Northern Ireland Matt Baggott has said he was "deeply shocked" by the publication of a front page picture in the Sunday World of a man hanging from a bridge after apparently committing suicide.
The Chief Constable said such issues should be treated with “more delicacy”. The picture - which had the strapline - "Halloween Horror" - has prompted 70 complaints to the Press Complaints Commission.
Northern editor of the Sunday World Jim McDowell has apologised for any distress caused by the image and told BBC News that he would sit down "face to face" with any complainants and review the newspaper's policy.
He said a decision was taken to print the photograph to highlight the fact that the body was left in public view for up to three hours as officers examined the scene. McDowell argued publication was in the public interest.
The Chief Constable is quoted by the Belfast Telegraph stating: “Sometimes, unfortunately, there are circumstances which make it very difficult for us to deal immediately with those distressing situations.
“I am satisfied that these circumstances meant that it was impossible to deal with it any quicker. I believe our watchwords, both in the media and as the police service, should be compassion and kindness and I would not support the publication of photographs of that distressing nature.”
In October a number of organisations, including the Samaritans, published new media guidelines for reporting of suicide. While the guidelines state suicide is a valid subject for discussion in the media they warn that too much detail about the way a suicide was carried out may lead to copycat actions by other vulnerable people.
Media guidelines on reporting suicide in the UK and Ireland can be downloaded from the Samaritans' website here.

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