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Regional news sites cleared of ‘glamorising suicide’ in inquest report

The family of a student who fell to his death from an aqueduct have failed in a bid to censure five regional news brands who covered the tragedy.

Matthew Lavin, 23, from Wigan, was found dead at the bottom of Pontcysyllte aqueduct in North Wales in September 2022 and a coroner later ruled that he had taken his own life.

His family complained to the press watchdog that reports of the opening of the inquest into his death had “romanticised and glamorised” suicide and could encourage copycat acts.

But the Independent Press Standards Organisation ruled that the publications concerned had not breached Clause 5 of the Editor’s Code, which prohibits “excessive detail” in suicide reports.

Pontcysyllte aqueduct near Llangollen, North Wales.

Pontcysyllte aqueduct near Llangollen, North Wales.

The complaints were issued against four news websites which reported the inquest opening online –,, and – and the North Wales Daily Post which covered it in print.

The articles reported that Mr Lavin had been found under Pontcysyllte aqueduct, near Llangollen, and reported that the inquest heard the “provisional cause of death given….following a post-mortem examination was multiple injuries, including a fractured spine, consistent with a fall from the aqueduct”.

Mr Lavin’s family said the reports breached Clause 5 as they considered the level of detail about the method of suicide was “excessive and could enable simulative acts.”

They also said that the aqueduct was a “well-known” location for suicide and suggested that the article “romanticised and glamourised it.”

The complainants also said that the level of detail about circumstances of Mr Lavin’s death included in the article was intrusive and insensitive, in breach of Clause 2 (Privacy) and Clause 4 (Intrusion into grief or shock).

The publications did not accept that the reports breached the Code and denied that they reported – or suggested – that Mr Lavin had died by suicide.

They argued that, as with all open inquests, newspapers and websites are entitled to report freely on proceedings, and that all the information within the article – including the details concerning the man’s injuries and the provisional cause of death given by the pathologist – had been heard in the inquest.

In July 2023, ten months after the publication of the original articles and the complaints being made to IPSO, a verdict of suicide was recorded by the coroner.

In its ruling, IPSO acknowledged that while the publication of the articles had caused the complainants concern and upset, it did not consider that they contained a level of detail of the method used that was excessive, to the extent that there was a risk of simulative acts.

The Complaints Committee said that it was widely understood that falling from an extreme height would be fatal, and reporting that someone has died in this manner in and of itself is not excessive detail.

It said that the details of Mr Lavin’s injuries and provisional cause of death had been presented “in a factual and non-sensational way” and had been placed in the public domain, hence there was no breach of Clauses 2 and 4.

The complaints were not upheld, and the rulings can be read in full here.