Monday, 22 February 2010
The News censured by PCC over suicide report
The Press Complaints Commission has today upheld a complaint against The News, Portsmouth, for publishing an article which contained excessive detail about the way that a woman had taken her own life.
It ruled that the story was in breach of Clause 5 of the Editors' Code of Practice because it gave "excessive detail" on the method of suicide.
The article reported the suicide of the complainant's mother, based on information obtained at an inquest. Following the woman's death, her handbag had been found to contain pill packets for a set number of a named anti-depressant. It went on to report the precise quantity of pills that were missing and the dosage she had ingested. There was also a reference to the amount of alcohol found in her blood.
The PCC said: "Although newspapers are entitled to report inquests, they must take account of the requirements of the Code. In this case, the Commission ruled that the combination of the name of the anti-depressant, the number of pills missing from the packet and the post-mortem result showing the level of drug's in the woman's system was "sufficient information to spell out to readers the precise method of death". This was therefore "excessive detail" in breach of Clause 5 (ii) of the Code and the complaint was upheld as a result."
Further concerns that the newspaper had not handled publication sensitively at a time of grief and shock were not upheld.
PCC director Stephen Abell commented: "The Code makes clear that 'care should be taken to avoid excessive detail about the method used' when reporting suicides, because of the risk of copycat actions. This adjudication builds on the Commission's case law in this area and sets out the high standards the PCC expects of editors when reporting such a sensitive subject".
You can read the full adjudication here.