House of Lords written question – answered on 7th December 2006.

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Photo of Lord Alton of Liverpool Lord Alton of Liverpool Crossbench

asked Her Majesty's Government:

How they will respond to the call by the charity Papyrus for amendment of the Suicide Act 1961 which has the effect of banning internet sites which may incite people to, or advise people on how to, commit suicide.

Photo of Baroness Scotland of Asthal Baroness Scotland of Asthal Minister of State, Home Office, Minister of State (Home Office) (Criminal Justice and Offender Management)

The Government take this difficult problem seriously and are taking a range of non-legislative steps to tackle it, including raising awareness of the potential dangers of suicide websites being accessed by vulnerable people; encouraging search engine companies to ensure that search results give prominence to sites offering help and support to people contemplating suicide; and working with internet service providers to discourage them from hosting sites which may encourage suicide. The Department of Health is also continuing to explore what more non-legislative action might be possible in the context of its Suicide Prevention Strategy.

At the Government's request, the Law Commission has considered the law as it applies to suicide websites as part of its work on participation in crime. It concludes (in annexe B to its report Inchoate Liability for Assisting and Encouraging Crime, published on 11 July and available on its website) that the problems posed by suicide websites can be adequately addressed without reform to the Suicide Act 1961. But it recommends that the language of the legislation could be updated, and that consideration should be given to applying its proposed provisions on extra-territorial jurisdiction to the offence of assisting suicide. We will consider these recommendations carefully.

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