Legal Beagle by Graeme Edgeler

17

An update of changes to suicide-reporting law (updated)

Parliament looks set to have its last substantive debate on the Coroners Amendment Bill this evening, with the committee stage on the Coroners Amendment Bill listed as the fourth item in the order paper (although, depending on how things go with the other items up for debate, the debate might not finish today).

I’ve written on the bill before, particularly about its rules around public discussion of self-inflicted deaths. The bill relaxes it in some areas, but tightens it in others. I had asked the select committee to reconsider the extent to which our laws criminalised public discussion of self-inflicted deaths at all, but they went the other way: further limiting the details that can be published (while still retaining the liberalising bit from the government’s bill – the right to describe a death as a “suspected suicide”).

The select committee also extended the restrictions on reporting suicides to overseas deaths, and historical deaths, which was somewhat of a surprise.

With the bill through select committee, I largely abandoned hope of it being the means of enacting a sensible law around public reporting of suicide, but I at least hoped the Government would see sense and reverse the decision of the Select Committee to extend the prohibition of publication of details of self-inflicted deaths to overseas and historical deaths.

Unfortunately, they only got part way there. On the day the issue will be voted on, the government released its final amendments. Discussion of the details of overseas suicides will no longer be illegal, but historical suicides within New Zealand will now be covered by the offence.

No reason has been given for the change.

Update: Parliament did not reach the bill this evening. When it will next be up for debate is up to the government. I will try to follow closely.

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