New code ruling aims to prevent copycat suicides

Controversial newspaper pictures of a woman jumping to her death from a London hotel could have been outlawed under a new addition to the Editors' Code of Practice.

In response to submissions from the charity the Samaritans, and others, the Code of Practice Committee has added a new clause which states: "When reporting suicide, care should be taken to avoid excessive detail about the method used."

The Committee was urged in April to look at the reporting of suicide in its annual review after the Press Complaints Commission decided The Times, The Sun and Evening Standard did not breach the code when they published mid-air photos of lawyer Katherine Ward jumping to her death from a London hotel.

The Code Committee consists of senior editors including The Guardian's Alan Rusbridger, John Witherow from The Sunday Times and Peter Wright from The Mail on Sunday.

Chairman, News International boss Les Hinton, said: "During our annual review, we received convincing evidence, from the Samaritans and others, that media reporting of suicide often prompted copycat cases. It is an international phenomenon.

"We have attempted to minimise that risk — while maintaining the public's right to know — by emphasising the need for care to avoid excessive detail, unless it is in the wider public interest to give the information.

"For example, while it might be perfectly proper to report that the suicide was caused by an overdose of Paracetamol, it would probably be excessive to state the number of tablets used.

"We have consulted with the industry on this and it has been accepted.

The new rule, in effect, codifies a practice already currently followed by many editors."

The code-change takes effect from 7 August — some 30,000 copies of the updated Code of Practice are to be sent out to Britain's journalists.

Code Committee secretary Ian Beales told Press Gazette that whether the Katherine Ward case would have come under the new clause in the code was a matter for the Commission itself.

Two new members have been appointed to the Editors' Code of Practice Committee. Adrian Faber, editor of the Express and Star, Wolverhampton, has been nominated by the Newspaper Society to replace Perry Austin-Clarke, of the Telegraph and Argus, Bradford. David Pollington, editor of The Sunday Post, is the Scottish Daily Newspaper Society nominee to replace Derek Tucker, of the Press and Journal, Aberdeen, who has joined the PCC as a commissioner.

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