Fears public could be put at risk as police record hundreds of call-room failures

Police Scotland has recorded 330 failures by its call handlers and control rooms in the last three years, new figures show, sparking fears the public could be put at risk.

Statistics obtained by the Scottish Conservatives include 53 incidents of missing or incorrect information.

The figures refer to "notable incidents’, which are defined as those likely to have a "significant impact" on the reputation of the force or its partners.

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There were 341 such incidents between April 2019 and February 15 this year, but 11 were "positive".

Picture: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire

Police Scotland handles around three million public contacts a year, including calls via 101 and 999 and online reporting.

It said just 0.006 per cent of contacts resulted in a notable incident in 2021.

The force previously admitted call room failings “materially contributed” to the death of Lamara Bell in 2015, after it took three days for police to arrive on the scene following the report of an accident on the M9.

The 25-year-old died in hospital four days after the accident, near Stirling, having suffered a brain injury, a broken limb and severe dehydration.

Scottish Conservative justice spokesman Jamie Greene accused the SNP of neglecting Police Scotland.

He said: “These are completely unacceptable failures, which could have serious consequences for public safety across Scotland.

“Call-rooms are at the frontline of policing, and failure to effectively pass on information can have awful outcomes, such as in the tragic case of Lamara Bell.

“These failures are the result of overstretched officers having to make up for the SNP Government's neglect.

"The SNP’s police merger has closed more than 130 local stations, taken local officers off our streets and centralised call-handling away from local communities.

"Those issues have been compounded by the government cutting the Police Scotland capital budget in real terms and denying officers vital improvements.

“This cannot be allowed to continue. We have brought forward proposals for a Local Policing Act to give Police Scotland more resources and get more officers out in the community."

The new figures, obtained by the Tories via Freedom of Information laws, show Police Scotland failed to identify risk on 34 occasions.

Assistant Chief Constable John Hawkins said: "In 2021 we handled more than 2.5 million contacts from the public and 129 of those (0.006 per cent) resulted in a notable incident being raised.

“While the number of these incidents is low, it is vital that, as a learning organisation, officers and staff have the opportunity to highlight them as we continue to improve our 101 and 999 services.

“The notable incident process remains a high priority for our Contact, Command and Control (C3) Division and is fully supported by our service advisors who play a key role in the continuous improvement of our response to emergencies, vulnerability and people in crisis.

“It is worth noting that ‘good work’ incidents are also recorded as part of the notable incident process and ensures identified good practice can also be highlighted and shared among C3 staff and, if required, more widely within the organisation.”

The Scottish Government was approached for comment.

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