Police Scotland call centres slammed for 82 serious errors

Handling of emergency calls at police call centres finds serious errors dealing with calls. Picture: Julie Bull
Handling of emergency calls at police call centres finds serious errors dealing with calls. Picture: Julie Bull
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Politicians have strongly criticised Police Scotland after it emerged there have been serious errors by staff handling emergency calls at police call centres.

An investigation revealed 82 “notable incidents” including so-called near misses by staff answering 999 and 101 calls for incidents involving vulnerable children and adults, road accidents and domestic abuse.

Notable incidents are those where the effectiveness of the division is likely to have a “significant impact” on the reputation of the division, Police Scotland or partners, and where lessons could be learnt.

A review of police call handling was carried out by HM Inspectorate of Constabulary in Scotland (HMICS) after the deaths of Lamara Bell and John Yuill on the M9 in 2015.

Ms Bell, 25, lay injured for around 72 hours and later died in hospital.

Her partner Mr Yuill, 28, was killed in the crash, reported to police the day it occurred but the call was not followed up.

Last night Claire Baker, MSP, Scottish Labour’s justice spokeswoman, said the findings were “deeply worrying.”

“It only takes one of these near misses to fully slip through the net for another preventable tragedy in Scotland to happen.

“With the memory of the M9 crash and the tragic deaths of Lamara Bell and John Yuill still fresh, these findings are deeply worrying.

“While I appreciate that these are only a small proportion of total calls received by police call centres, simple mistakes could cost lives.

“We need to be confident that Police Scotland has learned its lessons from the HMICS report and that their recommendations have been met.”

Police said notable incidents accounted for 0.004 per cent of calls received since April - the equivalent of one in every 22,500 calls.

Responding to the BBC Scotland freedom of information findings, Police Scotland deputy chief constable Johnny Gwynne, crime and operational support, said: “We strive to make that service and our response the best it can be and that is why it’s vitally important we get it right and learn from issues where management intervention is needed. Fostering a culture where staff feel able to highlight areas for improvement is key to that.

“Since the process began in April 2016, there have been 2.2 million calls from the public. We have excellent, committed staff and officers who receive those telephone calls and who respond on the ground.”

However, Douglas Ross, Scottish Conservative justice spokesman said: “These figures show there are still significant problems and more communities are worried about the further centralisation planned.

“This should serve as a reminder to the Scottish Government it can’t centralise these vital centres which need to be properly resourced and expect the same level of service.”

Lib Dem MSP Liam McArthur said: “The financial problems of Police Scotland and the failure of centralisation need to be tackled.”

A spokeswoman for HMICS said there would be an independent review of each notable incident reported with a report published next month which also be laid before the Scottish Parliament.