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                      Force Policy No.:                       8


                                              Policy Owner:
                         Detective Superintendent Major
                                                  Crime
                                          Investigations



                          Date Policy Approved: November 2004
                                      Reviewed: February 2010




FORCE POLICY:
Investigation of Sudden Deaths within West
Mercia Police



This policy has been drafted in accordance with the Human Rights
Act 1998, Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000 and the
principles underpinning it. It is suitable for public disclosure




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                                                    Contents

1.   About this policy ............................................................................................. 3

2.   General Principles........................................................................................... 3

3.   Statement of Policy ......................................................................................... 5

4.   Implications of Policy ..................................................................................... 7

5.   Monitoring / Evaluation................................................................................... 8

6.   Review .............................................................................................................. 8

7.   Internal Policy Links ....................................................................................... 9

8.   Policy Flow Chart…………………………………………………………………...9




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1.   About this policy

      This policy explains how West Mercia Police will approach the investigation of
      sudden deaths in order to ensure professionalism, effectiveness and
      consistency of service to the deceased and to the deceased’s family and
      friends.

      This policy is intended to provide guidance to the following Police roles:

      •   Control Room staff and their supervisors initially in receipt of a sudden
          death report.
      •   Police Officers and their supervisors attending the scene of such a report.
      •   Investigative staff tasked with the subsequent inquiries into the
          circumstances surrounding the death.



2.     General Principles


      West Mercia Police is committed to the principles embodied in the 2009
      National Policing Pledge. It will provide a citizen focused service to the public,
      especially victims and witnesses, which inspires confidence in the Police.

      Our aim is to continue to work together for safety and justice in a manner
      which respects the rights of all and ensures universal fair treatment.

      The effectiveness of this policy will directly influence the ability to achieve the
      following ideals contained within the Constabulary’s ‘4000+’ vision statement:

      •       West Mercia Constabulary will be viewed as an organisation of
              integrity.
      •       Citizens will feel confident in West Mercia Constabulary’s ability to
              investigate major crime.
      •       Citizens from minority communities will report enhanced levels of trust
              and confidence in West Mercia Constabulary.

      Consideration has been given to the compatibility of this policy and related
      procedures with the Human Rights Act 1998, with reference in particular to
      the following Articles contained within the European Convention:

             Article 2    Everyone has the right to life protected in law.
             Article 5    Everyone has the right to liberty and security.
             Article 6    Everyone has a right to a fair trial
             Article 8    Everyone has a right to a private life
             Article 13   Everyone has the right to effective remedy


     The Human Rights Act 1998 demands that the Police Service as a public body
     ensures that its activities are compliant. Article 2 will have particular relevance
     to the investigation of such deaths.




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The effect of this Article is that there must be a full and competent investigation
into all deaths. Police are under an obligation to strive to bring offenders (where
an offence has been committed) to justice.

Any infringement by a public authority of another person’s rights must be
justified. It is clear within the legislation that a police officer is always a ‘public
authority’ and as such is liable for any violation of a Convention right, incurred
during the execution of her/his duties.

The Chief Constable shall be liable for torts committed by any constable in
accordance with section 88 of the Police Act 1996.

The following principles must always be considered:-

PROPORTIONALITY - Police Action must be fair and achieve a balance
between the needs of society and the rights of the individual. All options
available to achieve the objective must be considered and the least intrusive
selected.

LEGALITY - Police actions must be supported by legislation or stated cases.
Officers must know their basic police powers well.

ACCOUNTABILITY - Police action will be open to scrutiny. Staff are required to
fully record their actions and the options considered. In addition indicating the
factors influencing the decision and including reasons for not taking a particular
course of action.

NECESSITY – Police action must be necessary in a democratic society. Any
infringements of rights must be justifiable.

In a series of Turkish cases the European Court has found that wherever an
individual dies in suspicious circumstances, Article 13 of the Convention (the
right to an effective remedy) requires without prejudice to the availability to any
other remedy, a ‘thorough and effective’ investigation capable of leading to the
identification and punishment of those responsible and including effective
access for the relatives to the investigatory procedure.

The Court has found the breach of duty to conduct an effective investigation to
include the following:-

Failing to ascertain possible eye witnesses
Failing to question suspects at an early stage
Failing to search for corroborating evidence
The adoption of an over-deferential attitude to those in authority
Failing to follow up proper complaints
Ignoring obvious evidence
Failing to carry out a proper post mortem
Failing to test gunpowder traces

It is imperative that Divisional Commanders and Senior Investigating Officers
ensure that each investigation is sufficiently resourced in order to ensure
compliance with the Act.




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3.   Statement of Policy and Definitions

     This Policy seeks to define the level of Police response to reports of deaths
     within the West Mercia Force area.

     Before registration of a death and disposal of a body may take place there
     must either be:

        •   A properly issued medical certificate as to the cause of death from a
            doctor, or
        •   A certificate from the Coroner after appropriate investigations.


     Coroners have a duty to enquire into a death if the body of the dead person
     lies within their jurisdiction, or coronial district, and the death was violent,
     unnatural or sudden with cause unknown.

     There is currently no specific statutory requirement within England and Wales
     for members of the public including health professionals to report such deaths
     to the Coroner. Conversely there is a common-law duty on all citizens to give
     information that may lead to the Coroner holding an inquest, to establish the
     cause of death. In reality most health authorities and the General Medical
     Council will have issued guidance to their members. This area is currently
     under review by the Government with a view to introducing new legislation.

     A qualified medical practitioner may issue a certificate stating the cause of
     death if he/she is the doctor treating the last known illness of the patient. In the
     event that this doctor has not seen the patient within the last 14 days then
     he/she may still issue a certificate following consultation with the Coroner.

     With the exception of deaths occurring under circumstances where a
     qualified medical practitioner is prepared to immediately certify the
     cause of death, most reports will be dealt with by an operational police
     response.

     Deaths occurring in hospitals, where the patient has been admitted to a ward,
     will not normally be reported directly to Police unless they fall within the
     inquestable category (see below). Deaths occurring in hospital wards where
     no certificate is issued will always be reported by the Health Authority directly
     to the Coroner. This in turn may lead to Police involvement should the Coroner
     deem necessary.

     Deaths occurring within the Accident and Emergency department (both
     inquestable and non-inquestable) will be reported to the Police who will deal
     with the immediacy of the situation.

     A simple flow chart is attached to this document as guidance for those in
     receipt of the initial report of a death (see section 8).

     Reports of sudden deaths where a certificate has not immediately been issued
     will be categorised within the policy under the following headings:-


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    Non Inquestable deaths
    Inquestable deaths

Non Inquestable Deaths:

Non inquestable deaths are defined by medical practitioners as those of
natural causes, either with or without the need for a post mortem
examination.

On report of such deaths police officers will deal with the immediacy of the
death, identification, removal of the body and submission of Form C38 to the
Coroners’ Officer. The subsequent response will then be upon local practices
directed by the H.M. Coroners.

All non inquestable deaths reported to the Police will be subject of mandatory
police attendance and will be supported by the visit of a supervisory officer,
who will be responsible for ensuring that an objective assessment is made as
to whether the death is categorised correctly.



Inquestable Deaths:

Inquestable deaths quite clearly demand investigation of the circumstances
surrounding the death of the deceased.

Such deaths may include the following:-

Major Disasters
Homicide
Unexplained death
Deaths resulting from medical malpractice and/or negligence i.e. manslaughter
Deaths resulting from arson
Deaths in Police custody
Sudden infant death syndrome
Work related deaths
Deaths involving police vehicles
Deaths involved in fatal road traffic collisions
Accidental deaths
Drugs related deaths
Deaths abroad

The list of deaths that should be referred is not exhaustive. If in doubt, the
Corners Officer should be consulted for advice.

The ACPO Murder Investigation Manual and the ACPO Major Incident Room
Systems and Administrative Procedures Manual should be considered as Force
Policy guidance by all officers investigating any death categorised as a major or
serious crime.

The ACPO Road Death Investigation Manual should be considered as Force
Policy guidance by all officers investigating any road traffic collision death.

When attending any inquestable death, officers will consider the following five
principles which are included in the Murder Investigation Manual:-

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     • Preserve Life

     • Preserve Scene(s) which may include suspects, victims, vehicles etc.

     • Secure Evidence

     • Identify Victim(s)

     • Identify Suspect(s)

     All such deaths will be approached as potentially requiring a murder
     investigation until the circumstances clearly indicate otherwise.


     Procedures relating to this policy are contained within a separate document
     (Appendix ‘A’).



4.   Implications of the Policy

     In the application of this policy West Mercia Police will not discriminate against
     any persons regardless of sex, race, colour, language, religion, political or other
     opinion, national or social origin, association with national minority, property,
     birth, or other status as defined under Article 14, European Convention on
     Human rights.

     A Diversity Impact Assessment has been undertaken during the compilation of
     this policy.


     Training

     Divisional Commanders and the Detective Superintendent HQ Crime, will
     ensure that there are the correctly trained resources to respond in a timely and
     professional manner in accordance with this and other related policies.

     All Divisional Control room and Call Management Centre staff will be made
     aware of their responsibilities by the relevant Manager.

     This policy and it’s related procedures will be made readily accessible to all
     staff on the Force Intranet system.

     Risks

     Any scene relating to a sudden death report should be considered as a
     potentially high risk environment. A dynamic health and safety assessment
     should be undertaken by control room staff and officers in attendance.

     The existence of risk to others (including Police Officers) from any of the
     following sources should be considered:




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     • Environment (e.g gas or other noxious substance; unsafe structure;
       electrical current; machinery; deep/fast flowing water, angry/volatile crowd).
     • Offender (if still in vicinity)
     • The deceased (e.g. Infection/Contamination)

     The effectiveness of Police response to any sudden death can potentially
     seriously impact upon public confidence. It is therefore essential that this policy
     is also underpinned by Force Policy 7 (The Management and Prevention of
     Critical Incidents within WMP).

     Consultation has taken place with:

     Home Office
     Other Forces
     Heads of Department
     Coroners Office
     Training
     Communications Room supervisors
     Operational Staff

5.    Monitoring / Evaluation

     The Policy owner will be responsible for this process.

6.   Review

     This document will be reviewed every year to take account of changes to
     legislation, case law, Home Office Circulars and Guidance by the Association of
     Chief Police Officers.

7.   Internal Policy Links

     Investigation of Crime Force Policy 9

     Dealing with the Consequences of Road Death Force Policy 84

     Management and Prevention of Critical Incidents within West Mercia Police
     Force Policy 7

     A Statement on Policy Involving Investigation of Sudden Infant Death Force
     Policy 56


8.   Policy Flow Chart

     The following flow chart sets out the Force Policy for responding to reports of
     Sudden and Unexpected deaths.




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                            Notification
                            that death has
                            occurred




                          Has a
                          Medical
                          Practitioner
                          issued a
                          certificate
                          stating cause
                          of death?


                    Yes                       No




No Police                                                  Was the deceased a
response unless                                            patient admitted to a
suspicion that                                             hospital ward at
certificate                                                time of death? Note
inappropriately                                            A&E is not a
issued.                                                    Hospital Ward




                                              Yes                                  No



                          Is the death
                          one which
                          could be                                             Initiate Police
                          categorised as                                       response
                          ‘inquestable’?




                     No                      Yes



    Refer caller                                    Initiate Police
    to Coroners                                     response
    Officer




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