Legal loophole thwarts Post's suicide probe

The Lancashire Evening Post has dedicated its front page and four inside pages to highlight the collapsed trial of Gary Howes, who allegedly tried to lure the paper's undercover reporter into committing suicide.

Since 2005, the paper has been running a Stop the Peddlers of Death campaign against people who use internet chat rooms to aid and advise suicidal people to end their own lives.

At the start of 2005, the Post dispatched reporter Stef Hall to go undercover and pose as a suicidal young girl.

Howes tried to persuade Hall to go ahead with it and visit him in Preston, at which point the Post called in the police. They took evidence from the Post and put Howes on trial at Preston Crown Court. He was acquitted because the Suicide Act 1961 does not take account of the internet.

The Post stressed the case highlighted "a shameful legal loophole". Deputy editor Mike Hill said: "We've not blamed the judge, because it was the failing of the legal system."

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