Caroline Flack: Let’s stop blaming everybody for her death

OPINION by Ben Sanderson

Here we go again.

Everyone’s favourite villains, the English media, are apparently at fault for Caroline Flack’s suicide on Saturday.

They reported on her assault charge and her death and not a lot in between, and so led the charge against Caroline Flack, bullying the 40-year-old ex-presenter of Love Island into a position she could tolerate no longer, so say those on Twitter and Facebook who now seek moral vigilance via the usual hatred of The Sun, The Daily Mail and every other newspaper which even dared report on Caroline Flack’s assault charge.

The reason why her assault charge and death have been reported to such great lengths is because of their great news value. These are massive stories that millions of people want to read and the appeal of the English media, which few other national media outlets hold, means that these reports are read by people not just in the UK but all over the world – including, oftentimes, by the very people blaming them for the suicide.

The media also reported on how Lewis Burton, her 27-year-old tennis player boyfriend whom the assault charge was against, sent a Valentine’s Day message via Instagram declaring his love for her, furthering the outreach of his support.

The Sun removed an article concerning a Valentine’s Day card sent to Miss Flack by someone who wrote “I’ll f*cking lamp you!” (in reference to her assault using a lamp as a weapon), but even then this was neither written or endorsed by The Sun, and has most likely been removed due to the poor taste of its unfortunate timing.

In all these cases, the media have reported the facts and have done so to further public discourse. That is their job. It may suit a lot of people to blame The Sun and The Daily Mail for everything that is wrong with the world, but on this instance it is entirely unjustified.

The reach of the blame has reached such worrying levels that there are two petitions, both with hundreds of thousands of signatures, for “Caroline’s Law” to be enacted to regulate press conduct surrounding supposed bullying, prompting Nick Ferrari to correctly quip, “Where was the bullying?”, and to call it “insanity”.

If the media cannot report on news which millions are interested in, which is the only crime they can actually be charged with from all this, they cannot do their work. The fact is that the media had as much to do with Miss Flack’s suicide as they had to do with the origin of the coronavirus: zilch.

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The front pages of The Sun and The Daily Star in the wake of Miss Flack’s untimely death

The ill-founded crusade against them has been in turn reclaimed by them to offload to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), who, despite Mr Burton’s not supporting legal action against Miss Flack, pressed ahead with the case to charge her with assault and take her to court, for a court date on Wednesday, 4th March which shall of course now not go ahead.

Again, this does not stand to be fair. The CPS have at many times, including just last month in The Guardian, been accused of not doing enough to defend victims of domestic abuse cases and not taking sufficient action against domestic violence. This is because they give in too quickly when a victim (who may have been coerced and inevitably often has been) relents and decides not to press charges.

The action against Caroline Flack was hence honouring the commitment to defending victims of domestic violence. It is very necessary that the CPS defend victims of domestic violence because they usually cannot or will not defend themselves.

On Good Morning Britain this morning, legal expert Joshua Rozenberg explained why the CPS take action when victims will not and why they have to: “[Say a man and woman] live together [and there is domestic violence reported] and the woman has second thoughts and she says I want to withdraw the charges… or is coerced as you might well imagine could happen in other circumstances.

“Should the CPS say ‘oh well, don’t need to worry about it any more, because she has been persuaded to drop the charges?’ It’s not up to her. It’s up to the state to decide.”

Concerning allegations they continued the prosecution even though Miss Flack forewarned of mental troubles because of it, Mr Rozenberg said: “I’m sure that the CPS is sympathetic as we all are this morning about this tragedy, but if you could simply say to the CPS, ‘I am vulnerable, I am likely to take my own life’, well, a lot of people would say that, and it wouldn’t be true.

“It’s very difficult for the CPS to judge, we don’t know what evidence Caroline Flack’s lawyers gave to the CPS about her state of mind.”

He added that a charge would be dropped in extreme cases such as what this one turned into but as of yet we have no reason to believe that the CPS knew it would escalate to this stage.

Nasir Afzal, a former CPS prosecutor in the North-West, also weighed in that using 999 call recordings, statements, interviews and police body cameras, the CPS managed to convict for 120 domestic homicides all without the use of victim evidence, via Twitter, as reported in the same article which features Mr Rozenberg’s comments.

Miss Flack and Mr Burton’s case was different, as there was no serious injury and he was clearly the far stronger of the two of them, but exceptions cannot be made for the specifics, and it also cannot be ignored that domestic violence is an issue which faces men as well.

They have been accused of using Miss Flack’s case as a show trial, akin to Adam Johnson’s excessive sentence for child sex crimes, but this is important too. When celebrities are made examples of, it sends a deterrent to people against committing these crimes.

This is the low ebb of being a celebrity. Those who want to enjoy a rich and famous lifestyle and are lucky enough to lead one have to be mindful that publicity is a two-way street and that their behaviour hence has to be impeccable.

It is an ugly truth, but there are a million and one people who would jump at the chance to do Caroline Flack’s job, and for stepping out of line, she had to expect a backlash. The CPS raised awareness of domestic violence by prosecuting Miss Flack and this is very important in protecting vulnerable men and women nationwide.

The Twitter trolls who have abused Miss Flack online (or those who, like the card sender, did so in print) have also been blamed by the moral warrior brigade on that same site, but this is frankly ridiculous.

Again, part and parcel of being famous is that one receives flak in equal accord with fandom and strength is needed to rise above this. There was far more support on social media for Caroline Flack, anyway – her social media was consistently full of fans expressing love and support for her and this continued right the way through the mire of her assault charge.

There was even a consensus that although Laura Whitmore was a good host, Love Island  was Caroline Flack’s gig.

Besides, are we really going to accuse @akj78987 (that’s not a real Twitter handle, I checked) or whomever else, of having played a part in her death? No!

That would be ludicrous. When everything else was going on, some nobody having a go at her (at which point she would have been rigorously defended by most other nobodies anyway) would not have had such a dramatic effect.

The point to this whole article is to address a major issue surrounding Miss Flack’s death: Why is anybody being blamed at all?

Caroline Flack killed herself. Nobody else did.

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Caroline Flack (picture unedited by Scottish Beauty Blog via flickr.com) was found dead at her house she had been renting in Stoke Newington

She was fearing the loss of her job, her image and reputation, her relationship (Lewis Burton still loved her, but after the charge it would never have been the same again) and her life as she knew it.

In amongst all her sadness, she broke and committed suicide.

Perhaps an opinion should be that she should have been stronger in the face of these struggles, but that would be a worthless contribution. The only lesson that can be learned from this is a valuable one to those of us still on this Earth: to be stronger when faced with these issues ourselves and carry on, because suicide is never way out, but a surrender – and there is light at the end of the tunnel.

There always is, so long as we hope.

It is tragic that Caroline Flack is dead and what we need to do is acknowledge the tragedy and mourn.

Creating a blame game using lies and half-truths to throw more people under the bus, due to aggravation, only makes the event more grotesque than it already is.

Rest in Peace, Caroline Flack. From the reaction felt nationwide, it is clear you will be sorely missed.

It was nobody else’s fault, so let’s not blame anyone, and come together to mourn.

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