Love Island Host’s Death Sparks Petitions to Change UK Press Laws

February 18, 2020 Updated: February 19, 2020
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The death of former “Love Island” host Caroline Flack has sparked a number of petitions calling for changes to UK laws regarding how the media operate and to ensure that the mental health and human rights of celebrities are respected.

Flack took her own life on Feb. 15 at the age of 40. Her body was reportedly found by her father in her east London flat. The ITV host was due to stand trial at Highbury magistrates court on March 4 where she faced domestic violence offenses after being accused of an attack on her boyfriend Lewis Burton on Dec. 12 at a flat in Islington, north London. She had denied the charge.

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Caroline Flack attends the ITV Palooza 2019 at the Royal Festival Hall in London on Nov. 12, 2019. (Jeff Spicer/Getty Images)

Burton has repeatedly expressed that he did not want the case against Flack to go ahead and did not consider himself a victim. He also criticized the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) for not allowing him to have contact with her until the trial.

In the wake of the TV host’s death, three notable petitions have been launched in a bid to change laws regarding celebrity culture and reporting, as well as calling for a full investigation into journalistic practices.

The first of them calls on the UK government to launch an inquiry into the British press. It has so far reached 218,632 signatures and will now be considered for discussion in parliament.

“This campaign is calling on our government to launch an inquiry into the British press and their practices following the maltreatment of those in the public eye including Caroline Flack, Harry and Meghan Markle, to name a few,” the campaign says. “The headlines, harassment, and trial by media has to end and they must be held accountable.”

A second petition named “Exploiting people in the public eye” was launched by British actress and friend of Flack, Stephanie Davis.

The petition calls for “new and stricter laws around safeguarding celebrities and people in the public eye,” which it says should be put in place to prevent the newspapers, magazines, all forms of media and paparazzi from:

  • Releasing information that there is no evidence for and is therefore false
  • Printing source quotes from anyone or an unreliable source
  • Invading privacy and sharing private information that is detrimental to the celebrity, their mental health, and those around them
  • Paparazzi taking and printing images without permission
  • Releasing an individual’s private medical or health related information or their sexual orientation
  • Releasing articles about leaked explicit photos, videos, and revenge porn
  • Stricter legal boundaries regarding unwanted trespassing nearby the property where the individual resides or is visiting

Davis said the petition would “ensure that celebrities’ mental health and human rights are being respected appropriately, safely, and with a duty of care. It will also help their family and friends’ mental health as they are affected also as unwanted negative attention is then attracted toward them and invades their privacy too.”

The actress added that the petition, which has already received 519,925 signatures, would also help prevent “self harm, suicide, substance abuse, and poor mental health.”

A separate third petition on website 38Degrees is calling for the creation of “Caroline’s Law” and has so far accrued 671,326 signatures.

It is calling for a law “that would make it a criminal offense, 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.”

Just hours after Flack’s death on Saturday, her management released a statement criticizing the CPS for pursuing her case despite her boyfriend calling for it to end.

“The Crown Prosecution Service pursued this when they knew not only how very vulnerable Caroline was but also that the alleged victim did not support the prosecution and had disputed the CPS version of events.” the statement said.

“The CPS should look at themselves today and how they pursued a show trial that was not only without merit but not in the public interest. And ultimately resulted in significant distress to Caroline.”

ITV has also been criticized and questioned over its treatment of Flack, although the broadcasting company said they remained in close contact with the former host and offered her support after she stepped down from the role following her arrest.

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Caroline Flack during the “Love Island Live” photocall at ICC Auditorium in London on Aug. 10, 2018. (Stuart C. Wilson/Getty Images)

Flack’s death has also resulted in fresh scrutiny of the Leveson Inquiry, a judicial public inquiry launched in 2011 into the culture, practices, and ethics of the British press following the News International phone hacking scandal. The Rupert Murdoch-owned Sunday tabloid News of the World was subsequently shut down.

The inquiry was led by Lord Justice Leveson, and a series of public hearings were held throughout 2011 and 2012. However, plans for it to move on to a second phase focusing on media relations with the police were later dismissed by former Prime Minister Theresa May.

Flack is the fourth person linked to the ITV2 dating program to have killed themselves. Sophie Gradon, a 2016 contestant, was found dead at her home in 2018 at the age of 32. Her boyfriend Aaron Armstrong, who had found her body, killed himself three weeks later at the age of 25. Mike Thalassitis, who appeared in the 2017 series, was 26 when he was found dead in a park in Edmonton, north London, on March 16 last year.

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