Government tackles suicide websites

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Government tackles suicide websites

Antony Savvas

The Government is cracking down on suicide websites by rewriting the Suicide Act 1961 to make it easier to apply the law to the internet.

The Government said it was responding to public concern about links between suicide and the internet.

UK internet service providers (ISPs) already take down websites under their control when notified that they contain illegal material. They are also free to restrict access to "harmful or tasteless material" in accordance with their "acceptable use" policies, said the government.

Simplifying the suicide law should help them apply rules about assisted suicide web content, said the Government.

Justice minister Maria Eagle said: "Protecting vulnerable and young people must be a priority and a responsibility for us all. Suicide is a tragic phenomenon, especially for the families and friends left behind.

"There is no magic solution to protecting vulnerable people online. Updating the language of the Suicide Act, however, should help to reassure people that the internet is not a lawless environment and that we can meet the challenges of the digital world."

She said, "It is important, particularly in an area of such wide public interest and concern, for the law to be expressed in terms that everyone can understand.

"We continue to work with the internet industry to look at long-term ways to keep people safe and without jeopardising our freedom of speech."

Child psychologist Tanya Byron recently submitted a report for the Government, entitled "Safer Children in a Digital World". The report identified websites promoting suicide as an area of confusion about the law on online activity.

The Law Commission also proposed that the language of the Suicide Act should be changed.

The Government will work with the UK Council on Child Internet Safety on restricting access to illegal websites. The organisations will assess the practicalities of policing and enforcing law online.

The National Suicide Prevention Strategy for England aims to reduce the suicide rate by at least 20% by 2010.

European Commission to spend £42m to keep kids safe online>>

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