UK: Teacher Lucy Meadows was hounded by a transphobic press says coroner

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The coroner investigating the death of transgender primary school teacher Lucy Meadows says the media should be ashamed of themselves.

“To the members of the press, I say shame. Shame on all of you,” Michael Singleton said on Tuesday in a furious tirade.

The coroner said he would be writing to Culture Secretary Maria Miller over the press’s conduct.

He added: “I will be writing to the government to consider now implementing in full the recommendations of the Leveson Report in order to seek to ensure that other people in the same position as Lucy Meadows are not faced with the same ill-informed bigotry as seems to be displayed in the case of Lucy.”

Then, concluding the inquest at Blackburn Register Office, he turned to reporters and said: “And to you the press, I say shame. Shame on all of you.”

Lucy Meadows, 32, was found dead in a house in Lancashire on Tuesday 19 March.

Before her death, Meadows had contacted the Press Complaints Commission (PCC) in January to complain about the way she had been treated in the press after her gender transition was made public by a local paper and then the wider national media in December 2012.

Much of the coverage took a critical view of her decision, with many asking whether the transition was “appropriate” for a teacher.

The Daily Mail also posted photographs of angry parents brandishing the letter on its website.

Daily Mail columnist Richard Littlejohn wrote disparagingly about Meadows in a column, and was subjected to renewed criticism following her death.

The PCC received a number of complaints about the article – but none directly from the family of Lucy Meadows.

Turning to Ruth Smith, Meadows’ former wife, who gave evidence at the inquest, Michael Singleton said he hoped those journalists present would write “sympathetic and sensitive” reports of the hearing. But, he added: “I do not hold my breath.”

The coroner said he had done some research into the media reports about Meadows and said he was “appalled” by the coverage.

The Daily Mail subsequently offered to remove Littlejohn’s article from its website, as well as a photograph of Meadows’ wedding to Ruth Smith in February 2009.

But Mr Singleton said he considered the Daily Mail’s gesture to be token at best, given what he described as the character assassination the paper had carried out on Meadows, which he said “sought to humiliate and ridicule” her.

“It seems to be that nothing has been learned from the Leveson inquiry.”

“Lucy Meadows was not somebody who had thrust herself into the public limelight. She was not a celebrity. She had done nothing wrong,” Mr Singleton told the inquest at Blackburn Register Office. “Her only crime was to be different. Not by choice but by some trick of nature. And yet the press saw fit to treat her in the way that they did.”

The coroner conceded that Meadows had made no reference to the media intrusion in one of the suicide notes she left in her house before she killed herself by carbon monoxide poisoning.

One letter was left to the coroner, which he read out at the inquest.

Ms Meadows wrote: “It used to be that people asked me why, and say things like ‘you can’t do this’. Some people asked ‘why you are still here’. I tried to do things the right way to make people more comfortable with it. I agreed with myself to find another solution to my troubles. I see only one path which is right for me.”

She described the “loss and pain” she had suffered following the deaths of her parents, a close friend and her grandfather.

She said: “I have issues around my trans. My job is stressful and I have debts. To be honest I feel a fraud in mentioning these things.

“It was my decision to distance myself from my parents. Me and Ruth would never have gone the distance. I am delighted that she has found her new partner.”

She described as “overwhelming” the support she had had from “family, friends, colleagues and people from other countries”. She said she “loved teaching” and was fortunate to work at the school she did. She said she had a strategy to pay off her debts.

She added: “Also, I have had many amazing experiences and good things in my life that I am truly grateful for. So why then my decision?

“I have simply had enough of living. I am not depressed or mentally ill in some way. I may have different world views to others to the point that most may not consider this a rational act. But it is right to me. All the things I have wanted to achieve I have done.

“I have no regrets other than leaving behind those dear to me and causing them pain in doing so, for which I am deeply sorry. I would like to thank everyone who had an impact on my life, and thank them for doing so. I wish you all the best.”

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