Maternity ward evacuated as man threatened to set fire to himself

South Tyneside District Hospital
South Tyneside District Hospital

A hospital maternity ward was evacuated when a man covered himself in lighter fluid and threatened to set himself on fire outside.

Women in the process of giving birth and others who had just had their babies had to be transferred to other departments as a result of David Kirsop's terrifying 45-minute stand-off outside South Tyneside District Hospital.

Pregnant women due to arrive for treatment or because their babies were coming had to be diverted to other hospitals.

Newcastle Crown Court heard the 30-year-old had sprayed himself with the flammable liquid while inside the hospital's Accident and Emergency Department on August 6 before moving to the rear of the maternity unit.

Prosecutor Emma Dowling told the court: "Police officers and members of staff were trying to persuade him to put the lighter down and come with them and stop being a nuisance.

"His response at one point was to pour further lighter fluid over himself and repeat the threats to set fire to himself.

"Hospital staff were so concerned about the safety of those within the maternity ward they made the decision the ward would be closed and patients in there would be moved.

"Six ladies who were either in the process of giving birth or had just given birth were asked to move.

"Other patients were diverted and sent elsewhere."

Miss Dowling said aside from the huge inconvenience caused by Kirsop, nobody was actually harmed during the early evening incident.

Kirsop, of no fixed address, who has convictions for 51 previous offences, pleaded guilty to causing a public nuisance.

Mr Recorder Nicholas Lumley QC sentenced Kirsop, who has been in custody on remand since the stand-off, to three months imprisonment, suspended for 12 months with rehabilitation and programme requirements.

The judge said people would have been "astonished and terrified" by his behaviour and told him: "The maternity ward had to be evacuated.

"Women in labour, a precious time in their lives and that of their babies, were moved.

"Other people had to be sent elsewhere, with the obvious worry and concern that would have caused.

"At the time, you were oblivious to their needs."

Speaking at the hearing, via videolink to HMP Durham, Kirsop made a public apology for what he did.

He told the court: "I have had a lot of time to reflect in here.

"In the time I have had to reflect, there has not been one day gone by that I haven't thought about the people in that maternity ward.

"I have got a lot of guilt and shame for that.

"I would like to apologise to them."

The judge said he accepted Kirsop's regret was genuine.

David Kirsop

David Kirsop