Legal crackdown on 'suicide websites'

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The Independent Online

Ministers are to re-write the law on so-called "suicide websites" to make it clear they are illegal, the Ministry of Justice said today.

Websites which encourage teenagers to commit suicide or carry information on suicide techniques have been implicated in dozens of teenage deaths in recent years.

It is already illegal under the 1961 Suicide Act to promote suicide but no website operator has been prosecuted under the Act.

The Ministry of Justice said it would amend the law to make it clear it applies online and to help Internet Service Providers police the sites they host.

Justice Minister Maria Eagle said: "There is no magic solution to protecting vulnerable people online.

"Updating the language of the Suicide Act, however, should help to reassure people that the internet is not a lawless environment and that we can meet the challenges of the digital world.

"It is important, particularly in an area of such wide public interest and concern, for the law to be expressed in terms that everyone can understand.

"We continue to work with the internet industry to look at long-term ways to keep people safe and without jeopardising our freedom of speech."

A spate of suicides in Bridgend, south Wales, in recent months prompted fears teenagers were using the web to plan and discuss killing themselves.

A recent study found people searching the internet for information on ways to commit suicide are more likely to come across sites encouraging it than those offering help.

Almost half of sites contain details on how to commit suicide while one in five hits are for dedicated suicide sites.

The move follows a report by parenting expert Tanya Byron for the Government on child safety on the web.

Safer Children In A Digital World found there was confusion about how the law applies to websites promoting suicide.