Kate Dayman complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that the Northampton Chronicle & Echo breached Clause 5 (Reporting of suicide) in an article headlined “Northampton woman dies of caffeine overdose, inquest hears” published online on 14 March 2018. The complaint was upheld, and the Northampton Chronicle & Echo has been required to publish this ruling as a remedy to the breach of the Code.
The article reported on an inquest into the death of the complainant’s sister-in-law, who had died as a result of an overdose. It described the substance ingested by the woman; the amount of this substance used; what this was mixed with; the approximate cost of this substance; the amount of the substance which constituted a “lethal dose”; and where it had been purchased.
The complainant said that the article included an excessive level of detail about the method the woman had used, and that this increased the risk of other individuals using the same method. She said this was especially concerning when the method used was relatively unusual, with little information available about it online.
The publication accepted that it had not acted within the spirit of Clause 5 (Reporting of suicide) and had published an excessive level of detail of the method used. It said that it had been contacted by Samaritans shortly after the article was published, in relation to these concerns, and had therefore removed it from its website within 24 hours of publication. The publication said that, since the article was published, it had taken steps to train its staff in relation to the reporting of suicide.
The committee noted that the purpose of Clause 5 (Reporting of suicide) is to prevent the publication of material which might lead to imitative acts. The article had provided extensive details regarding the method the woman had used, as outlined above.
The committee was concerned that this level of detail had been included, and the details included were sufficient to support an individual, in a number of ways, in engaging in a simulative act.
This was concerning when the article related to a relatively novel method of suicide, as there was a risk of increasing the awareness of this method among the population.
The level of detail included in the article was excessive in a number of respects, and this represented a breach of Clause 5 (Reporting of suicide). The committee noted that it was reassured by the publication’s response to the complaint; the steps it had taken indicated that it appreciated the severity of the breach to the Code in this instance.