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Saturday, September 22, 2007 

Scum-watch: Ignoring the PCC's guidelines on suicide.

In January last year, the Sun, Times and Evening Standard published photographs of a lawyer jumping to her death from a window ledge, resulting in condemnation not just from a friend of a woman, who complained to the PCC, but also the Samaritans, which recommended that reports covering suicide should avoid "explicit details of method and should in particular 'avoid the use of dramatic photographs or images related to suicide." While the PCC did not uphold the complaints, it did lead to a direct change in its code of practice to section 5, dealing with intrusion into grief or shock, which states that "care should be taken to avoid excessive detail about the method used."

So much for that. While last year's photographs of the death of Katherine Ward were only printed in black and white, the Scum today prints a full-colour, sharp, detailed photograph of a "tormented guest" at the Park Lane Hilton hotel, tottering dangerously on the edge of a window ledge, the window of which has been smashed by the man. Despite the Sun blanking out his face, a large quantity of blood is clearly visible on the window and ledge, apparently from the man slashing his wrists on the broken glass. He later fell to his death.

If the paper had only printed the actual article and not the photograph it would be fair enough, as voyeuristic and intrusive as it is; with it, it takes on a whole other dimension of crudeness and insensitivity. Just to rub salt into the wound, the online editor decided to allow comments on the piece, welcoming in a number of predictable responses.

Unlike in the previous case, it seems the only the Sun has covered the man's death in as much detail, at least after I performed a quick number of searches on other newspaper websites. Only the Times seems to have reported it, and that was in a news in brief. A complaint to the PCC about the article might well be in order.

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