A weekly newspaper has been rapped after publishing excessive details about the method of suicide used by a local man.
A woman complained to the Press Complaints Commission that an article published in the Wiltshire Gazette and Herald on 6 September contained excessive details of a suicide, in breach of Clause 5 (Intrusion into grief or shock) of the Editors’ Code of Practice.
The article contained the name of the gas the man had used, information about how it had been obtained and the manner in which it had been inhaled.
The PCC has ruled that the newspaper breached Clause 5 (ii) of the Code, which was introduced in 2006 to address concerns that press reporting can contribute to copycat suicides.
The complainant said that the detail included was explicit and technical, and had caused distress to the man’s family and friends.
In responding to the complaint, the newspaper said that it had tried to be sensitive to the family’s wishes in its reporting and at their request had not published a story at the time of the death.
It said the details it published had been placed in the public domain through the inquest and their omission would have prevented it from fully explaining the coroner’s verdict.
In its adjudication, the Commission made it clear that newspapers are entitled to report inquests in cases of suicide but stressed that they must take care to limit the level of detail.
Charlotte Dewar, head of complaints and pre-publication services, said: “The Code’s requirement to avoid excessive detail exists to minimise the risk of imitative suicides.
“The Commission works hard to promote responsible reporting of suicide. Today’s ruling is a reminder of the high standard the Commission expects of editors in this area.”