Caroline Flack death: Public disquiet over media conduct grows

Love Island did not air on Sunday night; petition urges inquiry into role of media

Caroline Flack stepped down from presenting the current winter series of Love Island after she was alleged to have assaulted her boyfriend, Lewis Burton. Photograph: Matt Crossick/PA Wire

Caroline Flack stepped down from presenting the current winter series of Love Island after she was alleged to have assaulted her boyfriend, Lewis Burton. Photograph: Matt Crossick/PA Wire

 

Love Island did not air on Sunday night following the death of its former presenter Caroline Flack, but the current series will continue.

Flack (40) was found dead at her home in east London on Saturday after taking her own life. The news led to debate about the role of the Crown Prosecution Service in a return case involving Flack, and an online petition was started calling for a UK government inquiry into media coverage of public figures had nearly 200,000 signatures.

Saturday night’s highlights edition of the ITV2 dating show was pulled, and there was speculation about whether the rest of the series would air. However, Love Island will be back on Monday, with a tribute to Flack. An ITV spokesperson said the decision had been taken following consultation between the company and Flack’s family.

Flack’s family confirmed that she died on Saturday, adding in a statement: “We would ask that the press respect the privacy of the family at this difficult time and we would ask they make no attempt to contact us and/or photograph us.”

The shock news prompted a flood of tributes from celebrities but also questions about the decision to press ahead with prosecuting Flack for her alleged assault on boyfriend Lewis Burton, as well as the pressures faced by TV celebrities from the press and social media.

Flack, who was described as “vulnerable” by her management, stepped down from presenting the current winter series of Love Island after she was alleged to have assaulted Burton at her then flat in Islington, north London, in December.

She entered a not-guilty plea to the assault charge at Highbury Corner Magistrates’ Court and was released on bail, with conditions that stopped her having contact with her boyfriend ahead of a trial in March.

‘Show trial’

In a statement released on Saturday night, her management company criticised the Crown Prosecution Service for pressing ahead with what it called her “show trial” even after her boyfriend said he did not support it.

Francis Ridley, of Money Talent Management, said: “In recent months Caroline had been under huge pressure because of an ongoing case and potential trial, which has been well reported.

“The Crown Prosecution Service pursued this when they knew not only how very vulnerable Caroline was but also that the alleged victim did not support the prosecution and had disputed the [service’s] version of events.”

By Sunday evening an online petition calling for a government inquiry into “the practices and policies of mainstream media organisations and social media platforms in their efforts to protect members of the public from harm” had more than 200,000 signatures.

The tragedy has put the spotlight back on the pressures that come with TV celebrity.

Tributes to Flack poured in after her death, with Burton saying: “My heart is broken.” In an emotional message on Instagram, he said he would now be Flack’s “voice” and would “get all the answers”.

He wrote: “I am so lost for words I am in so much pain I miss you so much I know you felt safe with me you always said I don’t think about anything else when I am with you and I was not allowed to be there this time I kept asking and asking.”

Burton (27), added: “I will be your voice, baby, I promise I will ask all the questions you wanted and I will get all the answers nothing will bring you back but I will try make you proud everyday.

“I love you with all my heart.”

O’Leary tribute

Flack’s former X Factor colleague Dermot O’Leary said he had “candles lit” in her memory, and her Love Island colleague Iain Stirling, the programme’s narrator, shared a video of Flack from a performance on Strictly Come Dancing in 2014 and wrote: “Today my friend slow motion walked into heaven. I will miss her always. Thank you for everything x.”

Laura Whitmore, who replaced Flack as Love Island host for the latest series, tweeted: “I’m trying to find the words but I can’t”, followed by a broken heart emoji.

An ITV spokeswoman said: “Everybody at Love Island and ITV is shocked and saddened by this desperately sad news.

“Caroline was a much loved member of the Love Island team and our sincere thoughts and condolences are with her family and friends.”

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

He said that both the traditional media and social media companies needed to take responsibility for the human impact of their actions. “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.”

Samaritans can be contacted on 116 123 or email or jo@samaritans.ie