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Giant fences at Archway Bridge will just mean suicides will happen elsewhere

04 August, 2017

Archway Bridge

• YOUR correspondents’ acknowledgement (Unacceptable to delay this anti-suicide work at bridge, July 7) that CCTV at Archway Bridge has prevented several suicides in a relatively short period of time certainly is a sign of progress.

However, their remark that “more needs to be done” is absurd if it refers to the fences. Was not the aim of their campaign to prevent suicides at the bridge? Have they not been prevented?

There are only two reasons for the tragic death referred to in their letter: the control room did not monitor images from cameras at Archway Bridge and therefore failed – this time – to alert emergency services; and the missing spikes have still not been replaced.

A finger-wagging public meeting to blame Transport for London for this suicide is ridiculous and merely a tactic to divert attention from the fact that Islington Council has not inspected or maintained Archway Bridge for many years. There are no spikes missing on the Haringey side and I have not found any records of suicides there; all occurred from the Islington side of the bridge.

The transport authority’s engineers responded very swiftly when I informed them about the state of the bridge and the missing spikes – by installing CCTV. What valid grounds are there for wagging the finger at TfL? There are none.

Contrary to statements made by the Archway fence campaigners, the authors of the British Journal of Psychiatry report have not claimed that the anti-suicide barriers on Clifton bridge completely prevented suicides at that location. Claims that deaths will stop completely if the Guantanamo-style fences are put up on Archway Bridge are untrue.

Campaigners’ claim that people who can’t jump from Archway Bridge won’t try to kill themselves elsewhere is merely wishful thinking. In the Bristol area, at sites other than Clifton bridge 31 deaths by jumping were recorded from 1994 to 1998 but the number increased to 42 in the period from 1999 to 2003 (when the anti-suicide barriers had been built).

It would be naïve to believe that fences on Archway Bridge would deter people from ending their lives. They would just do it elsewhere by different means. Statistics prove that.

There is a large amount of evidence that suicides are actually prevented (not merely relocated) if desperate people are able to talk about their problems with empathic listeners who understand how to respond. I wonder what these fence campaigners actually aim to achieve.

Do they only want people to avoid Archway Bridge and kill themselves elsewhere – or do they actually want to save lives?

Understandably, residents who live near Archway Bridge are “fed up” with suicides occurring there. There will be council elections soon when these residents can vent their anger by voting for new councillors who will not only repair the already existing anti-suicide barriers which have been effective for more than a century, but ensure they will be regularly inspected and properly maintained. Building anti-suicide fences is a waste of public funds.

Islington has refused to provide under the Freedom of Information Act an estimate of the cost of building the fences. It will be expensive.

It is clear now that the Islington-operated control centre cannot be relied on for monitoring CCTV images from Archway Bridge and for alerting emergency services.

Therefore, I hope that the existing and effective CCTV system is updated and modified to alarm directly emergency services when a suicide is attempted. This can be achieved easily with infra-red beams, motion detectors and other unobtrusive electronic devices.

They will reduce response time as no one from the control centre needs to explain to police what is happening on the bridge; emergency services can see it themselves on their monitors when the automatic alarm sounds. I have asked TfL to consider these modifications.

I have carefully examined photographs taken at Archway Bridge last year. They show three alternative spots (on the Islington side) where suicide attempts will succeed. I suggest the reason for deaths not having occurred yet at those alternative locations is that jumps from the parapet are still possible.

If campaigners actually get their horrendous contraptions put on Archway Bridge suicidal people will very soon identify these spots and die there. Consequently, building the gigantic fences will achieve precisely nothing.

ANTHONY CRAWFORD, N19

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