Crash that killed Falkirk couple leads to call centre cash

The M9 crash killed John Yuill and Lamara Bell
The M9 crash killed John Yuill and Lamara Bell

The horrific M9 crash that claimed two lives has forced a major change in Police Scotland policy - and delivered extra cash to staff its call centres.

The Scottish Government has pledged £1.4 million to help the force tackle the critical conclusions of an interim report into call handling by watchdog Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary in Scotland.

The probe into the role call centres played in the tragedy that claimed the lives of Camelon couple John Yuill and Lamara Bell has led to a pledge to keep three open until Bilston Glen and Govan have a full compliment of trained staff and the planned new control room in Dundee is fully operational.

The initial findings of HMICS boss Derek Penman forced First Minister Nicola Sturgeon to make a public apology to the families of John and Lamara who died after their car came off the Motorway near the Bannockburn Services on July 5.

Despite a passing motorist using the 101 emergency number within hours of the accident to contact Bilston Glen in Midlothian to report “seeing a car off the road” - it took Police Scotland three days to investigate.

Officers then found John (28) dead at the scene and Lamara (25) fighting for her life.

She was rushed to the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow but died of her injuries on July 12.

The catalogue of police errors that led to the tragedy caused outrage.

In his report Mr Penman said: “Staff do a good job and show considerable flexibility in their efforts to meet call demand.”

But he warned: “HMICS recognises the constraints placed upon Police Scotland as a result of staff shortages in Bilston Glen, Inverness, Aberdeen and Dundee, but considers the practice of diverting overflow calls to the main sites in Govan, Motherwell and Bilston Glen is creating additional risk.

“This will not be resolved until there is a full compliment of trained staff supported by effective systems, processes and procedures in the main sites and we strongly believe that until that is the case the facilities in Inverness, Aberdeen and Dundee should remain in place.

“Staffing, systems and procedures in East and West service centres and area control rooms should be consolidated and stabilised. Detailed planning for the previously agreed final model should continue with consideration given to accelerating the recruitment of staff and early commissioning of the North area control room in Dundee.”

The extra money will allow Police Scotland to recruit up to 75 call handling staff to ease the pressure.

Justice Secretary Michael Matheson told MSPs: “Concerns have been listened to - and are being acted on. Some of the events over the summer have prompted legitimate public concern, but the fundamentals of our policing remain sound - a skilled and committed workforce of officers and staff who deliver for our communities every day.”

Mr Matheson told parliament he is “truly sorry” for the circumstances surrounding the deaths of the young couple. He said: “The M9 incident had terrible consequences and I do not want any family to go through that experience again.”

As she called a halt to controversial police call centre closures, Nicola Sturgeon said: “Police Scotland has already apologised and on behalf of the Scottish Government I want to say how deeply sorry I am for what those families are going through.”