In a statement today Police Scotland chief Iain Livingstone apologised “unreservedly” to the families of Lamara Bell and John Yuill, who died after a car crash in July 2015.
It comes after Police Scotland today pleaded guilty at the High Court in Edinburgh to health and safety failings, as the pair died after their car was involved in a crash off the M9 near Stirling.
Police Scotland was fined £100,000 after it was ruled that Ms Bell could likely have survived if she had been found sooner.
Chief constable Livingstone said: “Lamara Bell and John Yuill’s deaths were a tragedy and my thoughts today are with their children, families and friends.
“The preservation of life and helping people who are in crisis go to the heart of our duty to keep people safe.
"Police Scotland failed Lamara and John in that duty, and for that I am sorry.
“On behalf of policing in Scotland, I apologise unreservedly to their families.
“And if the families agree to do so, I would welcome the opportunity to meet with them, when they are ready, to personally convey my apology."In court it was found that a staff-member at the call-handling centre did not record a call from a member of the public informing officers that a vehicle was lying at the bottom of an embankment next to the M9.
As a result, the pair were trapped in the car between July 5 and 8, 2015. Mr Yuill was thought to have died at around the time of the initial accident, but Ms Bell died on July 12 after being taken to the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow.Chief constable Livingstone insisted after the trial that lessons had been learnt throughout the course of the investigation.
He said: “Police Scotland has fully participated with the inspections, investigations and enquiries established since July 2015 to identify what went wrong and safeguard against those failings being repeated in the future.
“None of those investigations or enquiries change what happened or provide any consolation to the families involved, but I do offer an assurance that lessons have been learned and improvements made.
“The call handling system in place in 2015 exposed the public to an unacceptable risk and led to tragedy.
“People are entitled to expect help when their police service tells them they will respond.
“Our failure in July 2015 undoubtedly weakened the relationship of trust that exists in Scotland between policing and the communities we serve.
“Since that time, we have made changes to our approach which have resulted in significant improvements to reduce and mitigate risks associated with call handling and across policing.
“As Chief Constable, I undertake that Police Scotland will continue to fully co-operate with any other inquiries which may take place.
“I am personally committed to leading the organisation through further change and improvement to lessen the possibility of such a dreadful event ever happening again."
He added: “I am sorry for Police Scotland’s failure to keep them safe and the tragic consequences of that failure.”