The continuing implications of the ‘crime’ of suicide: A brief history of the present
The long history of suicide as a criminal offence still has a significant contemporary effect on how it is perceived, conceptualised and adjudged. This is particularly the case within countries where suicide is largely determined within a coronial system, such as Australia, the UK and the US. This paper details the outcomes of a study involving semi-structured interviews with coroners both in England and Australia, as well as observations at inquests. It focuses around the widely held contention that the suicide rates produced within these coronial systems are underestimations of anywhere between 15 to 50 per cent. The results of these interviews suggest that there are three main reasons for this systemic underestimation. The first reflects the legacy of suicide as a criminal offence, resulting in the highest standard of proof for findings of suicide in the UK, and a continuing stigma attached to families of the deceased. The second is the considerable pressure brought to bear upon coroners by the family of the deceased, who, because of that stigma, commonly agitate for any finding other than that of suicide. The third involves the rise of ‘therapeutic jurisprudence’, wherein coroners take on the responsibility of the emotional well-being of the grieving families, which in turn affects the likelihood of reaching a finding of suicide. The conclusions drawn by the paper are also twofold: first – with respect to the stigma of suicide – it will take a lot more than simple decriminalisation to change deeply held social perceptions within the community. Second, given that suicide prevention programmes and policies are based on such deeply questionable statistics, targeted changes to coronial legislation and practice would appear to be required.
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|Item Type:||Journal Article|
|Keywords:||Suicide, Coroners, Inquests, Crime|
|Divisions:||Current > Research Centres > Crime & Justice Research Centre
Current > Schools > School of Cultural & Professional Learning
Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Education
Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Law
Current > Schools > School of Justice
|Copyright Owner:||Copyright 2016 Cambridge University Press|
|Deposited On:||12 Jul 2016 22:53|
|Last Modified:||14 Jul 2016 07:44|
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