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Page last updated at 11:00 GMT, Wednesday, 17 September 2008 12:00 UK
Action 'needed on suicide sites'
By Matt Cole
Newsbeat reporter

Model posing as depressed woman
Many sites are hard to stop because they're based in the US

Campaigners calling for a ban on websites promoting suicide say a new government plan to deal with what's found online doesn't go far enough.

Ministers say they're making existing regulations simpler and easier for internet service providers (ISPs) to check if they're breaking the law.

But campaign groups say a ban would cut access to the sites and give people time to rethink what they're doing.

It's after concerns about the numbers of young people taking their own lives.

Justice Minister Maria Eagle said: "Clear law is good law. The language of the current legislation which dates back to 1961 is confusing and archaic.

"It is a criminal offence to assist someone to commit suicide, but it's not of course a criminal offence to commit suicide itself, and so this makes it a difficult area to write law in.

"This will make it clearer what is illegal and what isn't."

In April, a study found it was much easier to find websites encouraging young people to commit suicide than preventing them from taking action.

Half of the 240 sites, which are forums encouraging people to take their lives or join a pact, contained suicide methods.

Just one in 10 discouraged it.

One couple's story

Seven years ago Paul Kelly and his wife Hilary returned from a five-week holiday to celebrate their 25th wedding anniversary.

But far from a joyous homecoming in which they could share their photos and experiences with their family, they came back to the most horrendous news.

The government is tinkering at the edges. There doesn't seem to be any fundamental change in the law whatsoever, it's merely a clarification of the language
Paul Kelly
Their youngest of two sons, Simon, had at the age of 18, taken his own life.

Paul explained: "We had no idea whatsoever that Simon was in anyway suicidal or depressed.

"He was very bright, he was about to go to university, he was sociable, he had a girlfriend.

"The world would have appeared to be at his feet.

"It was only when we were able to view information the computer he'd left that we realised he'd been depressed for some time."

Paul explained that the computer and the access it gave to the internet had proved critical in his son's decision to end his life.

"We eventually found out that one of the factors that had influenced his decision to kill himself is that he'd accessed detailed technical information on the internet on exactly how he could kill himself," he said.

"In addition he'd been in a chatroom in which he'd received emotional and psychological support for suicide."

Online campaign

It's been seven years since Simon died, but speaking about him still brings tears to the eyes of his mum Hilary.

She explained: "Our other son met us at Heathrow airport and gave us the news, and I didn't believe it.

"I suppose you always hold out hope that something is wrong, that they've got the wrong person, and it actually wasn't until we went to the mortuary and we saw him that I believed it."

"We were not very knowledgeable about the internet seven years ago.

Model posing as depressed woman
New rules will make it easier for web hosts to check the law
"I didn't even know about the history button for example.

"Initially I felt very bitter towards the people who had been in the chat room with him, but then then that went away.

"They must have been ill themselves. Bitterness doesn't help anybody."

In the notes Simon left for his family he explained the help he'd received form a US-based website to learn how to take his own life.

Since then Paul has been involved in a campaign to get similar sites banned.

Paul Kelly and the organisation he now works with to campaign against suicide websites, Papyrus, doesn't think the new government rules go anywhere near far enough.

He said: "The government is tinkering at the edges.

"There doesn't seem to be any fundamental change in the law whatsoever, it's merely a clarification of the language."

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