The Press Complaints Commission has investigated whether an article published on The Independent website under the headline “Chainsaw death was ‘carefully thought through suicide’”, 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.
The article 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 death.
The newspaper amended the wording of the article as soon as the concern was brought to its attention by an interested party, removing all the detail.
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.