A Sunday Times Magazine feature about the Bridgend suicides illustrated with a large picture of a noose did not breach the editors’ code on intrusion into grief, the Press Complaints Commission has ruled.
Bridgend MP Madeleine Moon complained to the PCC about the piece, published on 25 May, on behalf of the relatives of some of the young people who took their lives in and around the Welsh village.
The complaint was made under clause five of the editors’ code of practice, which states that suicide stories must be handled sensitively and should not include excessive detail about the method used.
Moon said that while the text of the piece, headlined ‘Death Valleys’, was balanced and well-researched, the juxtaposition of photos of the deceased and a large image of a noose was ‘insensitive at a time of grief”.
She also said that a picture representing a method of suicide could encourage others to take their own lives.
The Sunday Times argued that the design treatment given to the feature ‘was to highlight the apparent happiness of the young people in the pictures with the harsh reality of what they had done”.
The News International title said it had conducted a serious investigation into the spate of deaths and had presented it in a way that avoided glamorising suicide.
The PCC said it was not its job to rule on whether the feature was offensive or tasteless, and concluded that the piece treated the subject ‘in a serious and sensitive matter”.
‘The picture of the noose did not make public anything new about the deaths, or describe the actual process by which individuals had used particular materials to take their own lives,’the PCC said in its ruling.
‘The commission was not convinced that – given the context of enormous national and international coverage, which had focused on the common method of suicide that linked the deaths – the picture of part of the noose was an excessive detail.”
The PCC has since issued guidance to newspapers on behalf of some of the families affected by the Bridgend suicides, who have asked that photos of the deceased are no longer published.
The commission will debate the current guidelines on reporting suicide at a Polis debate at the London School of Economics tonight. See www.pressgazette.co.uk tomorrow morning for details.