Complainant Name: Press Complaints Commission
Clauses Noted: 5
Publication: The Sun website
The Press Complaints Commission has investigated whether an article published on The Sun website on 20th November 2008 headlined “Suicide by chainsaw” contained excessive detail about the method of suicide used in breach of Clause 5 (Intrusion into grief or shock) of the Code.
The Commission found a breach of the Code.
The article reported the suicide of a man, who had taken his own life using a chainsaw. It contained a long and graphic reference to the method of suicide. It set out the precise apparatus that had been constructed by the individual to enable his suicide.
The newspaper accepted that the detail in the online version was excessive. It was therefore removed immediately.
Clause 5 (ii) was introduced specifically to prohibit the inclusion of detail that would act, in effect, as a blueprint for the method of a suicide. It is crucial that newspapers abide by its terms, in order to minimise the risk of copycat suicides. This means that, particularly in inquest reports (many of which will be provided by external agencies), care needs to be taken in the editing process to remove excessive detail.
On this occasion, the online article contained far too much detail and had not been sufficiently edited. It was a matter of concern that the newspaper had allowed the material to be published on its website. The Commission expected that the situation would not be repeated, as this was a clear breach of the Code.
The online article has, obviously, been altered now so there is no specific details in it anymore.
The explanation in the email notification also had this note that I couldn't find online
The Commission acknowledged that the information in the reports, all of which had been heard at the inquest into the man's death, had been provided to the newspapers by a news agency. However, this was not a sufficient defence. Indeed, this case demonstrated the importance of the editing process in removing excessive detail before publication - both online and offline.