Police Scotland staff to raise control room fears

The scene of the crash where John Yuill and Lamara Bell were found. Picture: Michael Gillen
The scene of the crash where John Yuill and Lamara Bell were found. Picture: Michael Gillen
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POLICE officers and staff are being urged to raise concerns during an investigation into the running of the country’s control rooms.

HM Inspectorate of Constabulary in Scotland (HMICS) is carrying out the assurance review following the deaths of Lamara Bell and John Yuill in a crash on the M9 earlier this month.

The police watchdog said it needed members of the force to provide information, which would be treated in confidence.

A series of concerns have been raised about the workload of the country’s control rooms, which Police Scotland is in the process of reducing in number from 11 to four.

Ms Yuill and Mr Bell died earlier this month after their car came off the M9. A member of the public reported the crashed vehicle on Sunday 5 July, but the call was not logged. The car was not found until three days later.

Publishing the terms of reference for the review yesterday, HM Inspector of Constabulary Derek Penman said his team would visit every control room in the country.

He said: “The aim of the review is to provide the Scottish Government and the Scottish Police Authority with an independent assessment of the operation, systems and procedures in place in call centres across Scotland. It will provide assurance on whether call handling is working effectively and efficiently within Police Scotland.”

HMICS said the review would audit calls on their journey through the control rooms. The review will engage with police officers, unions and staff associations. Mr Penman added: “Information we receive this way will be treated in confidence and only for the purposes of this review. It will be used to identify potential strengths and weaknesses within C3 (Contact, Command and Control Division) and inform specific areas for our scrutiny.” An interim report will be given to the justice secretary by the end of August, with the full report completed by the end of October.

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Last month, figures from the SPA showed control room staff were taking up to three minutes to answer 999 emergencies and up to 11 minutes for more routine calls.

Labour’s justice spokesman, Hugh Henry, said: “The car crash on the M9 was first and foremost a human tragedy.

“The thoughts and prayers of everybody should remain with the family of Lamara Bell and John Yuill.

“It appears that the police failure in this case wasn’t an isolated incident and was the result of a number of major problems since the creation of Police Scotland.

“The HMICS inquiry must look closely at the impact of the decision to close a number of police contact centres across the country and the cut in the number of civilian staff by the Scottish Government.”

Lib Dem MSP Alison McInnes added: “The reason for this review might be the tragic events around the M9 crash, but concerns over the impact of control room closures have been raised for months. It is vital the HMICS takes a proper look at the implications of the restructuring and what it has meant for staff and people reporting crimes. It would be wrong to sweep these issues under the carpet.

“Whether we are talking about armed police on the streets, the massive use of stop and search and reports of low morale, the case for a wider review of the way that our police force does business is overwhelming.”