Caroline Flack: politicians condemn press intrusion after presenter’s death

ITV says Sunday’s Love Island will not be broadcast as calls mount for regulation of traditional and social media

Politicians have condemned press intrusion, calling for more regulation of both traditional and social media after the death of TV presenter Caroline Flack.

The former Love Island presenter is understood to have taken her own life on Saturday at her home in east London. She had been charged with assaulting her partner and was due to stand trial in several weeks’ time.

ITV confirmed that Sunday’s episode of Love Island would not be broadcast but the current series would continue on Monday.

Responding to reports that an ambulance was called to the presenter’s address the day before she was found dead, a London ambulance service spokesperson said: “We were called shortly after 22.30 on 14 February to a residential property in north London.

“Crews attended and, following a clinical assessment, the person was not taken to hospital. Due to patient confidentiality we cannot comment further.”

Labour leadership contender Keir Starmer criticised mainstream outlets for “amplifying” damaging social media posts about Flack, and signalled he would take action to “diversify” the press if he won the race to succeed Jeremy Corbyn.

The former director of public prosecutions said the presenter’s death “shocked a lot of people”, adding: “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.

“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 Lisa Nandy 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.”

The transport secretary, Grant Shapps, in a media round on Sunday on behalf of the government, also referred to the results of the Online Harms white paper consultation, which looked at ways of better protecting children and vulnerable people.

Shapps said he did not know the full circumstances of the case but there should also naturally be a duty of care from the Crown Prosecution Service.

Speaking to Sky News’ Sophy Ridge on Sunday, he said: “Of course there is a duty of care for everybody involved in these things but I think we need to be pretty careful at this stage. We don’t know the circumstances as yet.

Daisy Cooper MP, who worked for the campaign group Hacked Off before being elected in December, said there must be more self-regulation before content is published online.

The Lib Dem politician said: “The hounding of Caroline Flack shows that parts of the British media continue to wreak havoc on people’s lives.

“In Britain we have trial by courts and not trial by media for a reason. Regardless of what took place she should not have been hounded to death by tabloid newspapers desperate for clickbait.

“The government must stop dragging its feet in introducing independent self-regulation of online and offline publishers.”

The health secretary, Matt Hancock, who is also responsible for mental health services, 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.”

Tory health minister Nadine Dorries, who is responsible for suicide prevention, posted online: “Every life lost by suicide is a complete tragedy … so many people will feel as though they lost someone they knew well, and who so many loved. My thoughts are with the family of Caroline Flack.”

Labour MP Kate Osamor, who appeared in the press herself for a threatening confrontation with journalists who went to her home after her son was convicted of serious drug offences, wrote: “The trolling & abuse she suffered at the hands of the media was relentless. Being kind is so underrated. RIP Caroline flack.”

Flack’s partner, Lewis Burton, a 27-year-old tennis player who had not supported bringing the case against her, paid tribute to her on Instagram: “My heart is broken … I am so lost for words I am in so much pain I miss you so much.”

Flack presented many of UK television’s biggest reality TV shows and their spin-offs, from The X Factor to I’m a Celebrity … Get Me Out of Here Now!, and won the BBC show Strictly Come Dancing in 2014.

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