By Graham Tibbetts, Last Updated: 7:30AM BST 06/06/2008″
Websites that encourage people to commit suicide could be shut down under changes to the law, it was disclosed today. The sites offer users tips on taking their own life and have been linked to around 27 deaths in Britain over the last six years.
The Government is considering closing a legal loophole to outlaw the advice. Under laws introduced in 1961 aiding or encouraging suicide is illegal – but only if the offender met the victim face to face.
Madeleine Moon, MP for Bridgend in south Wales where a number of the 20 recent suicides are believed to have involved suicide sites and chatrooms, said: “These sites can only be described as truly evil. The law needs to be changed.
“These websites are horrendous. They push and push people to kill themselves and tell them how to do it.”
Vernon Coaker, the Home Office minister, told a committee of MPs that the Government was determined to act.
“Aiding and abetting suicide, online or offline, is illegal. Something should be done about it and they should be taken down,” he said.
A spokesman for the Ministry of Justice said: “There are difficulties as many of them are based overseas, but we’re considering whether the law can be strengthened.”
The proposed change in the law comes as research indicates that internet images of child abuse are only taken down 30 days after they are reported, on average.
This compares with 3.5 hours for removing financial scam websites hosted on hacked computers, according to the study by computer security experts at Cambridge University.
The Internet Watch Foundation said that while banks had a role in closing down illegal websites, there were often difficulties in getting law enforcement agencies in other countries to act on child abuse websites.