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Chemical Suicides (4008_13)

Request / Response

Under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 I seek the following information about the number of ‘chemical suicides’ the police force has dealt with.

By ‘chemical suicide’ I mean incidents where one or more people have used household chemicals within an enclosed space in order to commit suicide.  This is sometimes referred to as a ‘detergent suicide’.

1.     The number of suspected ‘chemical suicides’ which have been responded to by police since January 2010.

2.     Details of each incident including:
a.     Date
b.     Location
c.     Number of people involved
d.     Number of fatalities
e.     Names of people who died (if released by police at the time
f.      Number of people injured/ requiring hospital treatment
g.     How many officers were involved with response to the incident
h.     Brief details of the police response to the incident
i.      How many police officers were injured/required hospital treatment and details of their injuries/treatment

Since 2010 there have been 2 incidents of suicide where a chemical has been used, the fatality in each case was male.  One incident occurred in 2012 and the other in 2013.

Further information regarding these incidents is exempt by virtue of the following exemptions

Section 30 (1) (a) (b)
Section 38 (1) (a) (b)

These exemptions and explanatory notes are shown here:

The Freedom of Information Act places two responsibilities on public authorities, the first of which is to confirm what information it holds and secondly to then disclose that information, unless exemptions apply. This letter serves as a Refusal Notice under Section 17 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (the Act) for the information that has not been released.

In line with the above, I am required to complete a Prejudice Test/Public Interest Test (PIT) on disclosure. Please find this PIT attached

3. Details of the force’s policy/guidelines when dealing with suspected chemical suicides.

Please find below the relevant extract from our force policy

” The officer determines the appropriate level of response according to the type of incident. A running log is created to track and record actions and resources.
Officers in attendance utilise STEP123 assessment tool
If there is ONE casualty, with no logical explanation or cause, proceed as normal.
If there are TWO casualties with no logical explanation or cause, consider further investigation before proceeding to the scene.
If there are THREE OR MORE casualties with no logical explanation or cause, do not proceed. Stand off until further information is gathered and assessed.

Early identification of hazards is essential at a suicide/attempted suicide scene. As initial responders, the Ambulance Service and/or Police are likely to be exposed to the hazard presented by the chemicals. Although the police normally lead as ‘agents’ for the coroners office they have no Personal Protective equipment to deal with a casualty in a contaminated environment.

There are 3 areas of concern in the event of a suicide in this environment:

Scene (including family members)

The quantity of the substance involved and the type will directly impact on all three and the levels/need for decontamination.  Identifying that a person has attempted or committed suicide using chemicals may be difficult to discern. It may not even arise until post-mortem for those who have committed suicide. Alternatively, the signs may be obvious by items in the room or information given by the deceased prior to the act. It is of paramount importance when dealing with such an incident, that should any officer first responder experience any signs of illness, particularly irritation of eyes or respiratory problems they should seek medical attention immediately

The response to such an incident will require a coordinated multi-agency approach, with the specific roles of individual agencies as detailed below and reinforced by the Memorandum of Understanding for dealing with incidents of a Chemical Fatality and Self Harm Incident

The role of the Police will be:

The Co-ordination of the Emergency Services and partner agencies
Controlling access and egress to the site; the protection and preservation of the scene
Evacuation procedures, undertaken in consultation with the other Emergency Services and Local Authority
Investigation of the incident in conjunction with the Coroner
Collation and dissemination of casualty information
Identification of the deceased on behalf of the Coroner
Assist the Local Authority in the restoration of normality
Activate a joint media plan.”


4008_ PIT