Attempts to debate harassment and bullying in the media have been blocked in “every way possible”, The London Economic can reveal a year on from the tragic passing of Caroline Flack.
Joshua Brandwood, who launched two petitions signed by hundreds of thousands of people, said he has run into a dead end whichever way he turned in the aftermath of her death.
One change.org campaign with more than 270,000 signatures was thrown out by Jacob Rees-Mogg because it wasn’t hosted on the government petition website (petition.parliament.uk).
When a separate poll was set up he was told it couldn’t be debated because it “could cause personal distress or loss” owing to the fact that it “intrudes into someone’s personal grief or shock without their consent by referring to the death of a named individual.”
Elsewhere a petition that garnered more than three quarters of a million signatures also fell onto deaf ears.
It called for the introduction of a “Caroline’s Law” that would make it a criminal offence, not dissimilar to corporate manslaughter, for the British media to knowingly and relentlessly bully a person up to the point that they take their own life.
An inquest into the death of Flack heard that she was “seriously let down by the authorities” and was “hounded” by the press over her forthcoming trial in the weeks before she killed herself.
The 40-year-old, well known for hosting Love Island and The X Factor, was found hanged at her home in Stoke Newington, north-east London, on February 15 2020.
She had been due to stand trial for assaulting her boyfriend, former tennis player and model Lewis Burton in December, after police arriving at the bloodstained scene described it looking like “a horror movie”.
Coroner Mary Hassell, at Poplar Coroner’s Court in east London, read statements from Flack’s mother Chris and twin sister Jody in which they outlined concerns they had about the presenter.
Flack’s mother could be seen weeping on video link as her statement was read.
She said: “I believe Caroline was seriously let down by the authorities and in particular the CPS (Crown Prosecution Service) for pursuing the case.
“I believe this was a show trial.
“I feel the prosecutor was unkind to Caroline and my family. I was threatened with arrest when I tried to speak.
“There was disputed evidence in court. The result of the media attention of this hearing forced Caroline to leave her home which she loved.
“Being well known should not allow special treatment, but should not allow making an example of someone.”
She added: “She lost the job she worked so hard at.
“I was with her the weekend before her death, in her new flat.
“When I said goodbye to her that day I never thought it would be for the last time.
“I kissed her and she said: ‘Bye mum’.
“She asked if all the family would go with her to court and we said of course.
“I was called on Saturday lunchtime (February 15 2020) to say Carrie (Caroline) had died.
“I believe she was heartbroken.
“I know nothing will bring her back, but I do want people to know what a lovely, kind, generous person she was.”
“Very anxious state of mind”
Twin sister Jody said she believed Flack tried to kill herself in December, ahead of her first appearance at the magistrates court for assault.
She said Flack was “in a very anxious state of mind” before her death and said an ambulance had been called for her four times previously.
She said: “Heartbreak is something Caroline found extremely difficult.
“She attempted to take her own life the night before she appeared in court. I believe the shame … was too much to deal with.”
Brian Wells, a doctor called to Flack’s hotel room the night before her court appearance, said Flack was inebriated and had apparently “taken a small overdose”. However, she was not suicidal, nor did she need hospital treatment, the inquest heard.
Flack’s sister added: “She was called a ‘killer’ and an ‘abuser’ on the front of the newspapers.
“The press and the public found this a very entertaining angle, and was spiralling out of control.
“Her life and reputation she worked hard to build was falling apart … because of a false accusation.
“It was our belief it would not be happening to her if she wasn’t in the public eye.
“At worst, her career and reputation, so precious to her, had been taken away.”
Press were “hounding her”
She said sections of the press were “hounding her” and had paid the neighbours to inform them on her movements.
Ms Flack said: “Caroline spent the last few months of her life hiding inside, scared of the abuse.
“Caroline seemed very sad the day before her death – she seemed to have lost her fight.”
Flack’s family had increased concerns about her mental state as the trial loomed, while Mr Burton also pleaded to the CPS to drop the case.
Paramedic David O’Toole said he was called to her new home in Stoke Newington on February 15 and Flack appeared to have been “dead for a number of hours”.
One of the crew pointed to a handwritten note placed on an open magazine on the coffee table.
It referenced, positively, “Lewis”, believed to be Flack’s boyfriend.
Mr Burton said Flack was “very upset” the last time he saw her, although it was not stated when this was.
He said: “She was very upset, in fact devastated, she was not in a good place emotionally.
“Sometimes she talked about taking her own life when she was extremely upset.
“The media were constantly bashing her character, writing hurtful stories … generally hounding her daily.
“What was worrying her most was the police case and losing her presenting job on Love Island, plus not being able to see me.”
Her death prompted an outpouring of sorrow from celebrity friends, colleagues and fans, who referenced one of Flack’s social media posts from December in which she urged people to “be kind”.
Flack’s management team criticised the CPS for conducting a “show trial” which prompted a review into her death.
However, the CPS found the case was handled “appropriately”.
Flack’s mother said her daughter’s legal team and psychologist warned about the potential for the former Strictly champion to kill herself.
She also said the claim was denied by both Mr Burton and Flack and “was completely inconsistent with the injury that Mr Burton sustained”.
Her suicide was the latest connected to Love Island, following the deaths of contestants Mike Thalassitis, 26, in March 2019 and Sophie Gradon, 32, in June 2018.
Miss Gradon’s boyfriend Aaron Armstrong, 25, died three weeks after he found his girlfriend.