The Law Commission is recommending revising the restrictions in the Coroners Act 2006 regarding reporting suicide. The new restrictions would be limited to public comment by any person of the method of the suicide death, the place of the suicide where it is suggestive of the method and the fact that the death is a suicide. However, a death would be able to be described as ‘suspected suicide’ where that is supported by the facts.
This will still require a law change passing through parliament. If the recommendations are to be accepted they would also include a new set of voluntary media standards. When considering restrictions on freedom of expression the commission raised two areas of concern;
1. Reporting the method of a suicide runs a risk of causing copycat suicide behaviour.
2. A death may not be described as a suicide until a coroner has determined that fact; however, it may be described as a suspected suicide when that is supported by the facts.
Changes as described above would at least put us on a level playing field with Australia where the suicide of a New Zealand man was reported by their media after the IRD raided his bank account on three separate occasions in one week in pursuit of child tax payments, otherwise referred to in New Zealand as financial problems.
While this is technically a relatively minor change to existing legislation it will no doubt take a considerable time to implement however as there is no enforcement of the current restrictions which clearly violate the Bill of Rights anyway, there is little reason not to implement the proposed standards which are long overdue.