PCC censures press over chainsaw suicide

The Press Complaints Commission (PCC) has held that 12 articles from 10 different publications were in breach of its code of conduct over the manner they reported the death of a man who had committed suicide using a chainsaw.

Clause 5(ii) of the PCC Code of Practice that provides: “When reporting suicide, care should be taken to avoid excessive detail about the method used”

In this case details from the inquest that was determining the cause of death were distributed to the media via a newsagency. These contained a description of how the chainsaw had been used in the suicide. The majority of the publications that covered the story ran it in full and included the detail about how the chainsaw was set up and used.

The PCC said that it had found 12 articles to be in breach of 5(ii) of its code precisely because they did contain the detail about how the chainsaw had been used. It said that the decision to include this information was ‘excessive’ and not necessary in terms of reporting the essence of the story. It pointed out that although the information had been passed to the media via a newsagency this did not absolve the press of its editorial responsibility to check its content and ensure its compliance with the spirit of the PCC Code.

While all of the publications concerned accepted the PCC adjudication, however the Mirror did disagree with the PCC’s view in this case - it argued that “the method of suicide was so exceptional that the reporting of it was in the public interest. It did not consider that the reporting could encourage copycat suicides.”

The 12 publications found to be in breach were:
Daily Mirror and Mirror online
The Sun
The Sun online
Daily Star
Telegraph online
Mail online

The PCC concluded that reports carried by the following were not in breach:
The Guardian

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