Ministers seek curbs on internet suicide sites for teenagers

Websites which encourage vulnerable teenagers to kill themselves are to be blocked under plans by the Government to tackle the dozens of suicides that have been linked to internet chatrooms.

Ministers are alarmed that pages inciting young people to take their lives – and even giving advice on suicide methods – are too easily available online.

They are urging internet service providers (ISPs) to veto "harmful or distasteful" suicide sites, and to provide automatic links to such organisations as the Samaritans or ChildLine when users try to find information on suicide. ISPs already warn website managers that "offensive" material will be automatically taken down from the internet.

However, the Ministry of Justice believes more must be done. It is even examining whether the legislation controlling assisted suicide websites is strong enough.

Despite initially being linked to the social networking site Bebo, police have said that there was no internet "pact" between the 17 young people from Bridgend, north Wales, who have taken their lives since January 2007.

However, campaigners have identified 30 suicides in which the internet has played a significant role, either by providing details of how to do it or where people are encouraged by visitors to chatrooms to kill themselves.

There was even one instance of a man who filmed himself live online while taking his own life, and being spurred on by others.

The Department of Health (DoH) said there were practical problems in policing the constantly changing World Wide Web, but that the Government was determined to force ISPs to shut down irresponsible sites.

Ivan Lewis, a Health minister, said: "I share growing public concern at the impact of the internet on vulnerable people, which can lead to tragic consequences.

"Working with organisations like Samaritans and with internet service providers, we need to consider whether there is more we can do together to protect vulnerable people."

However, the department is to announce today that the number of people committing suicide has fallen to a record low in England. An average of about 4,200 people killed themselves each year between 2005 and 2007, a rate of 8.3 suicides per 100,000 people. The previous three-year average was 8.5 deaths per 100,000 of population – the equivalent of about 4,350 deaths per year.

The DoH's annual suicide-prevention strategy report also says there has been a sharp drop in the numbers of suicides of men aged 20 to 34 and a fall in self-inflicted deaths among people in contact with mental health services. But it reports that 82 prisoners took their lives past year, compared with 71 in the previous 12 months.

Although suicide rates fluctuate annually, there has been a clear downwards trend since the mid-1980s. Ministers have set a target of reducing the suicide rate by 20 per cent over 15 years to 7.3 deaths per 100,000 of population by 2009-11.

The initiatives include erecting barriers at well-known "jump points" and setting up "suicide patrols" to watch over the sites, as well as "dump campaigns" encouraging people to throw away unwanted medicines.

A source at the department said: "We are pleased that the levels of suicide are coming down but we need to be alert to the possible dangers of the internet. This concern pre-dates events at Bridgend. The work is at an early stage but we are determined to find ways of protecting people at risk."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Project and Quality Manager

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is an independent ...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Sales Executive - OTE £20,625

£14625 - £20625 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This role is for an enthusiasti...

Guru Careers: Financial Controller

£45 - £55k DOE: Guru Careers: A Financial Controller is required to join a suc...

Recruitment Genius: Fertility Nurse

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join the ho...

Day In a Page

Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

Turkish President Erdogan could benefit politically from the targeting of the PKK, says Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: Our choice is years of Tory rule under Jeremy Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

Our choice is years of Tory rule under Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

Yvette Cooper urged Labour members to 'get serious' about the next general election rather than become 'a protest movement'
Singapore's domestic workers routinely exploited and often abused in the service of rich nationals

Singapore's hidden secret of domestic worker abuse

David Cameron was shown the country's shiniest veneer on his tour. What he didn't see was the army of foreign women who are routinely exploited and often abused in the service of rich nationals
Showdown by Shirley Jackson: A previously unpublished short story from the queen of American Gothic

Showdown, by Shirley Jackson

A previously unpublished short story from the queen of American Gothic
10 best DSLRs

Be sharp! 10 best DSLRs

Up your photography game with a versatile, powerful machine
Solved after 200 years: the mysterious deaths of 3,000 soldiers from Napoleon's army

Solved after 200 years

The mysterious deaths of 3,000 soldiers from Napoleon's army
Every regional power has betrayed the Kurds so Turkish bombing is no surprise

Robert Fisk on the Turkey conflict

Every regional power has betrayed the Kurds so Turkish bombing is no surprise
Investigation into wreck of unidentified submarine found off the coast of Sweden

Sunken sub

Investigation underway into wreck of an unidentified submarine found off the coast of Sweden
Instagram and Facebook have 'totally changed' the way people buy clothes

Age of the selfie

Instagram and Facebook have 'totally changed' the way people buy clothes
Not so square: How BBC's Bloomsbury saga is sexing up the period drama

Not so square

How Virginia Woolf saga is sexing up the BBC period drama
Rio Olympics 2016: The seven teenagers still carrying a torch for our Games hopes

Still carrying the torch

The seven teenagers given our Olympic hopes
The West likes to think that 'civilisation' will defeat Isis, but history suggests otherwise

The West likes to think that 'civilisation' will defeat Isis...

...but history suggests otherwise
The bald truth: How one author's thinning hair made him a Wayne Rooney sympathiser

The bald truth

How thinning hair made me a Wayne Rooney sympathiser
Froome wins second Tour de France after triumphant ride into Paris with Team Sky

Tour de France 2015

Froome rides into Paris to win historic second Tour
Fifteen years ago, Concorde crashed, and a dream died. Today, the desire to travel faster than the speed of sound is growing once again

A new beginning for supersonic flight?

Concorde's successors are in the works 15 years on from the Paris crash