Internet Censorship: Suicide

Earlier this year the UK government stated it will change the law to make it illegal to promote suicide on web sites.

There is already a law covering this, to a degree, the Suicide Act 1961. This act makes it  illegal  “aid, abet, counsel, or procure” in a suicide attempt, i.e it is illegal to help somebody to commit suicide.

Section 2 of the Act states that:

A person who aids, abets, counsels or procures the suicide of another, or an attempt by another to commit suicide, shall be liable on conviction on indictment to imprisonment for a term not exceeding fourteen years.

But, while its illegal to assist in suicide, it is no longer  illegal to actually commit suicide (contrary to popular myth), and Section 1 of the 1961 Act makes that very clear  – “The rule of law whereby it is a crime for a person to commit suicide is hereby abrogated.”

One of the people calling for the change in the law is MP John Robertson (pictured below),  the Labour MP for Glasgow North West.John Robertson

Mr Robertson,  has an interesting voting record:

Voting against an investigation into the Iraq War.

Votingagainst a transparent parliament

Voting very strongly for ID cards and the controversial anti-terror laws.

He also had £147,000 worth of expenses last year, on top of his salary. Clearly a beacon of light in liberty in this crazy world we live in.

Previously it has not been illegal to merely provide information to somebody wanting to commit suicide, i.e courts did not see that as a breach of Section 2 of the 1961 Suicide Act.  If the law is changed then this will override the 40 years of case law.

It is often stated that the longer case law stands the more valid it is, but not to the UK government.

Part of this call for censorship is due to the knee jerk reaction to the suicides in Bridgend. Which, in-spite all of the clamor and hype, stopped just as randomly as they started.

In fact despite all the media coverage about the subject, and the increased Internet debates discussing the issue, the rate of suicides did not continue to increase, but stopped completely.

i.e there was far more information about suicides after the 17th death in Bridgend than before the 1st suicide, but despite all of this information tthe suicides did not continue increase but stopped.

Therefore those drawing a direct link between the suicides and Internet activity have a major statistical hurdle to cross.

No doubt in 5 years time a study will be conducted and it will show that the 17 deaths were just a statistical anomaly, and there was a drop in suicides in the year before or after (its not very interesting for newspapers to report “SEVENTEEN LESS SUICIDES THIS YEAR!”)

While it may appear innocent and acceptable, like so many other laws, to ban the promotion of suicide, the law, like so many others before it, will actually go much further.

The new law, if it is ever passed, will seek to stop Internet debates/forums on the subject and will also cover assisted suicide/euthanasia – which is legal in other countries – and a reasonable subject to debate.

If this law does get passed, it could easily be amended to prevent debates and web sites on other related subjects, such as alternative pain relief (often using cannabis).

Is it more censorship that is required, or more responsibility and education?


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