An online petition set up in the wake of Caroline Flack’s death calling for a new law to prevent the media from ‘bullying’ individuals has received more than 700,000 signatures.
The petition backs “Caroline’s Law”, and asks for legislation that would make it a criminal offence for the British media to harass someone up to the point where they take their own life.
Flack, 40, was found dead at her north London home on Saturday, a month before she was due to face trial accused of assaulting her boyfriend, Lewis Burton, 27.
A lawyer for her family said the Love Island presenter took her own life.
The petition on political activism website 38 degrees had been signed by more than 700,000 people by Tuesday afternoon.
It is addressed to the House of Commons and culture secretary Oliver Dowden and was set up by Dennis Patton, from South Shields, in the North East of England.
It reads: “To consider a law that would make it a criminal offence, not dissimilar to corporate manslaughter, for the British media to knowingly and relentlessly bully a person, whether they be in the public eye or not, up to the point that they take their own life.”
The petition states: “Sections of the British press and media act with impunity, and more recently there have been a number of cases where they have sought to sensationalise the misfortune of individuals to the catastrophic detriment of the individuals' mental welfare.
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“We'll never truly know all of the things that were going on in Caroline's mind when she took the decision to take her life.
“But we do know that sections of the media were quite happy to drag her life through the wringer purely in order to sell a few more papers and it's just not right.
“What price is a life? This isn't the first time this has happened, and I'm concerned that without a new law, it won't be the last.”
Dr Paul Wragg, associate professor of law at the University of Leeds, said he would welcome such a law but that it would need political backing to be introduced.
“It would require a political appetite to have it,” he told Yahoo News UK. “There would have to be the political will to introduce it, and it’s not clear that there is.
“I would like to see a stricter system of press regulation. What we need is compulsory press regulation.”
He said any new law like the one in the petition should apply to celebrities and non-celebrities.
“What’s required is a re-examination of the circumstances that can lead to this kind of bullying,” he said.
“If we had a law like the one being petitioned for, liability could only be determined post-facto i.e. after someone has died.”
He said ideally there would be a law that “stamped out” any bullying behaviour on the part of the media before someone loses their life.
Robin Priestly, campaigns director at 38 Degrees, told ITV News: “The sheer number of people signing this petition speaks to a huge outpouring of grief and anger after Caroline’s tragic death.
“People are saying enough is enough. They want the government to do something to make sure our media can’t bully or harass those in the public eye.”
Meanwhile, a separate petition on Change.org calling for the government to launch an inquiry into the British tabloid press following Flack’s death reached its 100,000-signature target.
The petition, set up by user Joshua A, received more than 218,000 signatures.
He wrote: “This campaign is calling on our government to launch an inquiry into the British tabloids and their conduct following the maltreatment of those in the public eye including; Caroline Flack, Harry and Meghan Markle, to name a few.
“The headlines, harassment and trial by media has to end and they must be held accountable.
“We are campaigning for an inquiry into the practices and policies of mainstream media organisations and social media platforms in their efforts to protect members of the public from harm.”
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