Call handling report after death crash makes 30 recommendations

The M9 crash scene that claimed two lives
The M9 crash scene that claimed two lives

An independent report into Police Scotland call handling contains 30 recommendations for improvement.

HM Inspectorate of Constabulary in Scotland was ordered by Justice Secretary Michael Matheson to carry out a review following the M9 crash that claimed the lives of Falkirk couple John Yuill and Lamara Bell in July.

There was outrage after it was confirmed cops received a 101 call that morning to say a car had gone off the motorway near the Bannockburn Services but it was never followed up.

Instead, local police issued a missing persons alert two days later while John (28) already lay dead in the wreck with Lamara (25) lying seriously injured - but alive - beside him.

It was only three days later, after a local farmer called them to say there was a car crashed in his field, that they finally responded.

Lamara was rushed to the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow, but died on July 12 from her horrific injuries.

The Independent Assurance Review headed by HM Inspector of Constabulary Derek Penman backs findings in an interim report published in September that Police Scotland need to focus on stabilising the existing call handling arrangements before making any further changes.

It makes it clear the Scottish Police Authority should not approve any further stages of the call handling project until it receives independent assurance that Police Scotland is ready.

Mr Penman said: “Making direct contact with the police can be a major step for a member of the public. It is essential in maintaining public confidence in policing that all calls are effectively managed and the caller’s experience is positive.”

While he gives assurance on the commitment of staff to provide a quality service to the public and the effective handling of emergency and high priority calls - he also highlights a number of weaknesses in Police Scotland’s approach to the roll out of its new national call handling model.

He said: “The oversight of this project has been inadequate with key risks not being identified or highlighted to senior managers. There was an initial focus on meeting deadlines and increased productivity rather than a well managed project with a focus on customer service, good staff relations and a thorough process design.”

Mr Penman added: “Staff are strongly commited, in often challenging circumstances, to provide a good service to the public. This is despite many being subject to significant uncertainties about their futures.

“While I welcome the commitment and progress already been made by Police Scotland to address many of the issues highlighted, my report makes 30 recommendations for improvement which I expect to be addressed as a priority.”

HMICS will review how the recommendations are being progressed and carry out a further audit of call handling once Police Scotland has implemented the next major stages of the project.