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."

News
people'It can last and it's terrifying'
Sport
Radamel Falcao
footballManchester United agree loan deal for Monaco striker Falcao
Sport
Louis van Gaal, Radamel Falcao, Arturo Vidal, Mats Hummels and Javier Hernandez
footballFalcao, Hernandez, Welbeck and every deal live as it happens
Sport
footballFeaturing Bart Simpson
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
peopleA spokesperson said the support group was 'extremely disappointed'
Voices
A man shoots at targets depicting a portrait of Russian President Vladimir Putin, in a shooting range in the center of the western Ukrainian city of Lviv
voicesIt's cowardice to pretend this is anything other than an invasion
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand performs live
music Pro-independence show to take place four days before vote
News
news Video - hailed as 'most original' since Benedict Cumberbatch's
Arts and Entertainment
booksNovelist takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Arts and Entertainment
The eyes have it: Kate Bush
music
News
i100
Life and Style
tech

Apple agrees deal with Visa on contactless payments

Life and Style
techIf those brochure kitchens look a little too perfect to be true, well, that’s probably because they are
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Technical Software Consultant (Excel, VBA, SQL, JAVA, Oracle)

£40000 - £50000 per annum: Harrington Starr: You will not be expected to hav...

Technical Sales Manager

£45000 - £53000 Per Annum plus bonus plus package: The Green Recruitment Compa...

Humanities Teacher

£110 - £135 per day + Competitive Rates: Randstad Education Maidstone: Outstan...

SQL DBA/Developer

£500 per day: Harrington Starr: SQL DBA/Developer SQL, C#, VBA, Data Warehousi...

Day In a Page

Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

As the collections start, fashion editor Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy

Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall...

... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy
Weekend at the Asylum: Europe's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln

Europe's biggest steampunk convention

Jake Wallis Simons discovers how Victorian ray guns and the martial art of biscuit dunking are precisely what the 21st century needs
Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Lying is dangerous and unnecessary. A new book explains the strategies needed to avoid it. John Rentoul on the art of 'uncommunication'
Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?

The atomisation of culture means that few of those we regard as stars are universally loved any more, says DJ Taylor