• November 20, 2015


The Isle of Man Chief Constable has responded almost immediately to the queries we raised with him in relation to energy deprivation and winter deaths.

We had asked two specific points arising from an earlier exchange with the Coroner of Inquests.

The first was:

‘Can you confirm that your Officers, who are often first on the scene at a sudden death at home, do note the factors that the Coroner has listed i.e. description of clothing, ambient temperature and nature of circumstances (e.g. frugal).’

The second was:

‘Finally, where the Coroner determines that energy considerations may have been a associated factor in a sudden death, will you be carrying our enquiries with the appropriate energy supplier to ensure no actions of there’s contributed to the death – obviously this would be out with the remit of the Coroner whose role is only to determine cause.’

The full text of his response is set out below:

“Dear Mr Moffatt

Thank you for your letter of yesterday (and its various attachments) concerning deaths where the conditions in which someone had been living might have been a contributory factor. I hope you do not mind my responding simply by email but this is a quicker, more cost effective way of doing things.

You raise important issues and, as recently as last week, officers were reminded of their obligations in respect of sudden or unexplained deaths. In particular, they were given guidance about seeking to determine whether the deceased had apparently lived in such a way that might have resulted in them suffering from hypothermia or in other circumstances where they appeared to have been unable to support themselves.

The Constabulary has a duty to investigate all sudden or unexpected deaths and it is for the police, in consultation with the Coroner of Inquests, to determine the extent and scope of any such inquiries. Where any death appears to have occurred because of hypothermia, then the inquiry would be appropriately rigorous and far reaching. I note your question concerning information recorded by officers. I am afraid that the Constabulary does not have the resources to research historical information.
I hope that this is of assistance. Please do not hesitate to contact me should you require more information.

Yours Sincerely
Gary Roberts
Chief Constable”

The second point is responded to unequivocally in that he says ‘Where any death appears to have occurred because of hypothermia, then the inquiry would be appropriately rigorous and far reaching.’ The only problem is that our reference to the Coroner referring to the findings of Professor Keatinge of Queen Mary University London established that winter deaths can occur, through stroke of heart attack, due to comparatively minor reductions in household temperature and certainly not in conditions where hypothermia would occur.

On our first point the response is disappointing as even if there is such a dearth of statistics and the resources not available to collate them surely he might have advanced that the procedures I referred to were standard practice.

I personally don’t think that prior to our raising the issue with the Coroner it was standard police procedure to register ambient temperature, the frugality of resources etc at sudden death incidents in households. If I am wrong Mr Roberts is at liberty to take me to task.

Why is this important? Although our queries, first to the Coroner and then to Mr Roberts, were prompted by concerns for this coming winter, the situation is that ‘winter deaths’ as a consequence of fuel poverty has been understood as an issue for almost a decade. The WHO published a report (including the UK) ten years ago and as recently as last April the UK estimated as many as 14780 deaths were associated to fuel poverty.

Notwithstanding those caveats I thank Mr Roberts for his prompt response and welcome the assurance that: ‘as recently as last week, officers were reminded of their obligations in respect of sudden or unexplained deaths’ coincidently just around the time we raised the issue with the Coroner!
Issued by: The Celtic News



The Celtic League established in 1961 has branches in the six Celtic Countries. It promotes cooperation between the countries and campaigns on a range of political, cultural and environmental matters. It highlights human rights abuse, military activity and socio-economic issues


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