Caroline Flack media 'bullying' petition handed in to government
A petition calling for new and stricter laws regarding the British media in the wake of the death of TV presenter Caroline Flack has been handed in to the government.
More than 850,000 people have signed the petition calling for “Caroline’s Law”, which they say should make media harassment a criminal offence “not dissimilar to corporate manslaughter”.
Flack, 40, was found dead at her home in east London last month. Her family said she had taken her own life.
At the time of her death, the Love Island presenter had been due to go on trial for allegedly assaulting her boyfriend, and had been subject to much scrutiny in the press and on social media.
On Tuesday, the 38 Degrees campaign group posted a video on Facebook to say their petition – one of several set up in Flack’s memory – was delivered to the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) on Tuesday morning.
Speaking to Sky News, Megan Bentall, campaigns manager at 38 Degrees, said the decision was made to hand the petition to government now due to the sheer volume of people supporting it.
“We’ve never seen growth like this in a petition before,” she said. “Within two days of it being set up, half a million people had signed it.
“It was set up in the tragic wake of Caroline Flack’s death, and our hearts go out to her friends and family. It has clearly struck a nerve with the public – people really want change and want the media to do better.
“What we’ve found is this doesn’t just happen to celebrities, it happens to ordinary people up and down the country.”
While there are regulators already in place – the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO) is the regulator for the newspaper and magazine industry in the UK, while communication watchdog Ofcom oversees television and radio broadcasters – campaigners are calling for tighter laws.
“This is the start of a process,” Ms Bentall said. “First off we’re looking for a response from the government to the campaign.
“From there we want and need better regulations for when things like this happen, and we’re also reaching out to the hundreds of people who have told us that this has happened to them to see if we can support them in lodging a mass complaint to IPSO.”
After Flack’s death, her family released an unpublished Instagram post she had written in the days beforehand.
In the statement, the TV star wrote that her arrest meant “within 24 hours my whole world and future was swept from under my feet”.
She said she had lost her job, home and “ability to speak”, and that “the truth has been taken out of my hands and used as entertainment”.
Many of her friends have since spoken out about Flack’s treatment in the press and on social media, including actress Stephanie Davis, rugby player Danny Cipriani and fellow presenter Laura Whitmore, who took over for the most recent series of Love Island.
Hollyoaks star Davis told Sky News’ KayBurley@Breakfast: “[Caroline] was destroyed by it all. She had nowhere to turn, she was getting death threats. People online, bullying, that needs to stop.”
A government spokesperson confirmed the 38 Degrees petition had been received.
“Caroline Flack’s death is a tragedy, and our thoughts are with her family and friends at this very difficult time,” the spokesperson said in a statement sent to Sky News.
“There are established systems in place to regulate the press and we are developing world-leading laws to put a new duty of care on online companies towards their users.
“We have received the petition and will respond in due course.”