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'Celebrities are being hounded': Politicians hit out at press intrusion in wake of Caroline Flack's death

The 40 year-old was found dead at her east London flat on Saturday.

Image: Empics Entertainment/PA Images

BRITISH POLITICIANS HAVE condemned press and social media intrusion in the wake of the death of television presenter Caroline Flack.

The 40 year-old died by suicide and was found in her east London flat on Saturday. 

She was best known for presenting reality show Love Island from 2015 to 2019, along with The X Factor (2015), the Xtra Factor (2011-2013) and Strictly Come Dancing (2014, 2018).

She had been facing court charges, accused of assaulting her boyfriend Lewis Burton, and her death shines a spotlight on the tabloid press which splashed the TV presenter over the front pages following her arrest.

The role social media might have played in her death is also the source of fierce debate, with the presenter being on the receiving end of abuse since her arrest.

“I have no doubt that social media has a huge role to play in this,” said fellow presenter David Bull. “I wish people would think more carefully about what they tweet.” 

Labour leadership contender Sir Keir Starmer signalled he would take action to “diversify” the press if he won the race to succeed Jeremy Corbyn.

He said the wider media had been responsible for “amplifying” the messages coming from social media.

Speaking at the latest leadership hustings in London, he condemned the constant “vilification” of Labour politicians in the press.

“I think it shocked a lot of people yesterday,” he said in reference to Flack’s death.

“It wasn’t just social media, it was the media amplifying what social media was doing. It was both strands. There is a human impact.”

He added: “The press more widely have to take responsibility as well. Not just for the hatred and abuse but for the vilification constantly of Labour MPs and Labour leaders.

“We have got to do something to diversify our press, to have a better media.”

Fellow leadership contender Rebecca Long-Bailey condemned the way the press had treated the Duke and Duchess of Sussex.

“We know the impact certain elements of the media have on people in public life,” she said.

She added: “We have got to recognise the impact that that has on individuals. It is more so on individuals in public life.”

However Lisa Nandy, the third candidate left in the contest, said social media companies could not be left to police themselves, suggesting the current situation was like “the Wild West”.

“I worry about the approaches that say we allow the social media companies to regulate themselves,” she said.

“In no other area of life would we allow private companies to police themselves. We ought to make sure the state has a system of regulation and support around that.”

Shadow Culture Secretary Tracy Brabin said in the wake of her death that the Labour Party would continue to press for a new inquiry about media regulation.

“There’s been a lot of blame-gaming, people blaming ITV, people blaming the press,” she told the BBC Radio 4 Westminster Hour.

“This is why the Labour Party were pressing for Leveson 2, because it does feel like after everything that we went through we still are back at that place again where celebrities are being hounded by particular news outlets and their private life is being splashed across the front pages.

“I do think it’s important that we press social media but also newspapers don’t get away with it either.”

Transport secretary Grant Shapps described the presenter’s death as “incredibly sad” and extended his sympathies to her friends and family, but said there were potentially a number of factors in the case.

“There are obviously questions of duty of care with anything you do, television included. I think before we rush to conclusions, we see what all the circumstances are,” he said.

“Obviously there are lots of things going on in this particular case. I do think it’s right to look at those properly and allow the authorities to do their job.”

Health secretary, Matt Hancock, who is also responsible for mental health services, also urged individuals to show more compassion in future.

He tweeted: “So sad to see the news of Caroline Flack’s suicide. Shows we must do so much more as a society to look out for each other – whether online or off.”

Meanwhile, the Crown Prosecution Service – which took the assault case against Flack – outlined how it reaches decisions over whether or not to charge someone with a criminal offence.

The explanation came hours after the presenter’s management company criticised the CPS for pursuing a “show trial” regarding her assault charge despite her boyfriend saying he did not support it.

A statement said: “We do not decide whether a person is guilty of a criminal offence – that is for the jury, judge or magistrate – but we must make the key decision of whether a case should be put before a court.”

If you need to speak to someone, contact: 

  • Aware 1800 80 48 48 (depression, anxiety)
  • Samaritans 116 123 or email jo@samaritans.ie
  • Pieta House 1800 247 247 or email mary@pieta.ie (suicide, self-harm)
  • Teen-Line Ireland 1800 833 634 (for ages 13 to 18)
  • Childline 1800 66 66 66 (for under 18s)

With reporting from Press Association.

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