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PAPYRUS welcomes proposed change to standard of proof for suicide conclusions

19th December 2016

18 December 2016 – PAPYRUS, the national charity dedicated to preventing young suicides, welcomes the House of Commons Health Committee’s recommendation that the standard of proof for conclusions of death by suicide should be changed to the balance of probabilities rather than beyond reasonable doubt.

“We have lobbied for this change for many years,” said Stephen Habgood, chairman of PAPYRUS who lost his son and only child to suicide. “Some coroners have been incredibly reluctant to deliver a suicide conclusion, preferring an open conclusion, an accidental death or a narrative statement.

“As a result, when suicide statistics are released they are not worth the paper they are written on,” said Stephen Habgood. “Published statistics lump together suicide and open conclusions. This is totally misleading and skews the real picture. It feeds into stigma; stigma that prevents young people seeking help, as well as inhibiting others from asking people they are worried about if they are thinking of suicide. Lack of action by successive governments has resulted in too many young lives being needlessly lost. The impact on families and communities is devastating.

Since change to the Suicide Act 1961 suicide has not been a criminal act. “We must stop using the word ‘commit’, which is an intrusion into family grief; families already devastated and broken,” added Stephen Habgood.

“We welcome and totally support the Health Committee’s proposal to change the standard of proof for conclusions of death by suicide, to the balance of probabilities rather than beyond reasonable doubt.”

Editor’s notes:

PAPYRUS was founded in 1997 by a group of parents who had a lost a child through suicide: parents determined to do everything possible to save other families and young people from a similar fate.

The charity’s HOPELineUK helpline servicesprovide a unique service in the UK for young people themselves and those concerned about them - to speak confidentially to its team of trained professionals for practical advice and support. Telephone 0800 068 41 41 text 07786 209 697 or email pat@papyrus-uk.org

Editorial contact for more information Rosemary Vaux PAPYRUS press office direct line 020 8943 5343 mobile 07792 72 62 41


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Suicide is the biggest killer of young people - male and female - under 35 in the UK. Many thousands more attempt or contemplate suicide, harm themselves or suffer alone, afraid to speak openly about how they are feeling.

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