IslingtonTribune

The independent London newspaper

An anti-suicide fence at Archway Bridge won’t stop people determined to die

07 July, 2017

• ISLINGTON Council leader Richard Watts claims to be “very angry” about the suicide at Archway Bridge. What exactly caused his anger is unknown.

Campaigners for a fence, who have for more than a decade resisted the provision of any other deterrent while people killed themselves, and politicians, who in detestable fashion exploited the reputation of Archway Bridge for selfish reasons, have brainwashed the public into thinking that only an enormous barrier along both sides of the structure can “save lives”.

Their “proof” is the study carried out at Clifton Bridge in Bristol. However, they do not want anyone to read that paper because its authors never claimed that fences there prevent suicides.

The anti-suicide fence will never deter individuals who are determined to die. The idea that suicidal persons would abandon their plan because they cannot jump off Archway Bridge is pathetic. The number of suicides will not decrease; they will just be carried out somewhere else, in a different way.

There is a significant difference between stopping suicides altogether and diverting them to other locations. The fence everyone seems to want diverts suicides to other places – which is precisely what the authors of the Bristol report have stated with reference to Clifton Bridge. The misguided campaigners and Councillor Watts need to accept this fact.

Transport for London seems a good target for his rage. Blaming Haringey would be a bad idea since it is also a Labour-run council.

Electronic devices should be installed in addition to cameras. They automatically alert police and other emergency services. If Cllr Watts and campaigners sincerely seek to prevent suicides anywhere (that means not just at Archway Bridge) a totally different approach is needed. CCTV or automatic alarm systems play an important part.

Numerous scientific studies have been carried out to investigate how suicides can actually be prevented. Fences do not feature in them.

The findings in these reports are confirmed by the experience of volunteers who provide the Samaritans service. It seems that no one has approached the Samaritans for advice about suicide prevention, although they have carried out high-quality research in this field and prevented – without fences – many people from taking their lives.

All genuine experts agree that deaths are preventable if a trained negotiator is able to talk with the suicidal person. Statistics prove that approach is extremely effective.

This vital dialogue does not happen on a bridge with a monstrous anti-suicide fence. It occurs when personnel from the emergency services actually meet individuals who intend to kill themselves.

Statistics prove that very few people who had such an encounter still committed suicide later in life. Proper monitoring of CCTV images and instant alerts sent to the emergency services allow such positive encounters to take place.

The anti-suicide fence does not create such meetings. Those who want to end their lives will do it quietly elsewhere, predictably without being reached by those who could help them.

Cllr Watts should also ensure that the spikes, which have prevented suicides for almost 100 years, are replaced without delay.

In the course of my own research I discovered that several of the people who killed themselves at Archway Bridge knew each other. They visited the same day centre and perhaps discussed ways of dying. They did know where spikes are missing and may have removed them.

However, anyone with good vision can see the gaps between spikes from ground level and photographs I took below Archway Bridge (not with a telephoto lens) clearly show these empty spaces above, which are wide enough for large men’s shoes to fit in.

Transport for London is right to resist the installation of the monumental anti-suicide fence because officials know it is ineffective and a waste of money that is not justifiable.

But their unwillingness to advise campaigners and council officials about effective alternatives measures, like infra-red beams or motion detectors, and to offer provision instead of the Guantanamo-style, costly fence, I certainly deem unacceptable.

ANTHONY CRAWFORD, N19

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