Inquests must be held in public in accordance with the principle of open justice, so members of the public and journalists have the right to attend inquests and Press reports may appear.   The coroner cannot forbid journalists from attending an inquest however, in some cases the coroner can make order to prevent the identification of some witnesses, in particular children.   Press and media reports that are fair and accurate are unlikely to be actionable for defamation.  The only exception to this is inquests held in private for national security reasons.

Journalists must abide by the Editor’s Code of practice, upheld by the Independent Press Standards Organisation, which sets out the guidance for print journalists in the UK.  The Code, a copy of which is posted on the notice board outside the Coroner’s Court, has requirements on accuracy, privacy and discrimination.  It also has specific rules in cases involving grief and shock.  For instance publication in such circumstances must be handled sensitively and, when reporting suicide, care should be taken to avoid excessive detail about the method used.

The Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO)

The IPSO mostly deals with complaints about published material however it can also help to prevent physical harassment by journalists and will sometimes be able to assist with problems related to material that has not yet appeared in print.
The IPSO are happy to discuss issues informally before any action is taken.

The content of a suicide note and personal letter will usually not be read out at the inquest, unless the coroner decides it is important to do so.  If these are read out their contents may be reported. Although every attempt is made to avoid any upset to people’s private lives, sometimes it is unavoidable.  Photographs taken of the deceased and of the scene of death may also form part of the evidence presented in court but the Coroner will always try to handle such material with sensitivity.

The IPSO can be contacted on:

Tel: 0300 123 22 20

Independent Press Standards Organisation

Gate House

1 Farringdon Street