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Police call handling under review

Published 12/07/2015

Lamara Bell lay injured for three days beside her boyfriend John Yuill after the crash
Lamara Bell lay injured for three days beside her boyfriend John Yuill after the crash

A review of all police call handling in Scotland has been launched after a mother died in hospital after she spent three days lying in a crashed car next to her dead boyfriend.

Lamara Bell, 25, was critically injured in the crash off the M9 near Stirling on Sunday July 5.

But she was only found in the car on Wednesday, around 72 hours later, despite the incident having been reported to police on the day it happened.

Scotland's Justice Secretary Michael Matheson has formally directed Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary in Scotland (HMICS) to undertake an urgent review of all police call handling following the incident.

Mr Matheson said he had made the decision after a discussion with First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.

The HMICS review will focus broadly on all call handling procedures.

It comes in addition to the ongoing independent inquiry specifically into the M9 incident by the Police Investigations and Review Commissioner.

"This will be a thorough and speedy review that will help to ensure that the people of Scotland can have full confidence in this vital public service," Mr Matheson said.

Police Scotland's Chief Constable last week apologised to the relatives of the two crash victims and admitted that information received about the crash on Sunday had not been entered in to police systems.

Sir Stephen House said he welcomed the HMICS call handling review, adding that he had asked Mr Matheson to initiate it.

"In light of recent tragic events, Police Scotland need to be able to reassure the Scottish public that we have both the capacity and the capability to deal with their calls to us, both in an emergency on 999 and in our 101 service," he said.

Ms Bell died at Glasgow's Queen Elizabeth University Hospital shortly before 7am today.

Her boyfriend, 28-year-old John Yuill, who was a father, was pronounced dead at the scene of the crash.

Numerous tributes to Ms Bell have been posted online and Mr Yuill's family have spoken of their devastation following news of the second death.

A statement from the Bell family requested privacy and said: "Sadly, our daughter has passed away."

Mr Yuill's relatives said: "The family of John Yuill would like to say that their prayers and thoughts are with Lamara and her family.

"We are devastated by the sad news this morning.

"The families have messaged each other this morning and our thoughts are with John and Lamara's children at this very sad time."

The couple were reported missing after visiting Loch Earn, Stirlingshire, in a blue Renault Clio.

It emerged that a member of the public contacted Police Scotland at around 11.30am on Sunday July 5 to report that they could see the vehicle down an embankment near the M9 slip road at Bannockburn.

The call was answered, but "for reasons yet to be established" it was not entered on to the police systems and no action was taken at the time.

The car was found when officers were called to the scene by another member of the public on Wednesday.

The HMICS review follows pressure from opposition politicians for a wider inquiry into the operation of the force in light of the incident.

Mr Matheson said: "I would like to convey my heartfelt sympathies on behalf of the First Minister, the Scottish Government and myself to the families of Lamara Bell and John Yuill.

"This is an extremely tragic case and I welcome the full investigation into what has happened that is being undertaken by the Police Investigations and Review Commissioner (PIRC). It is essential that answers are found quickly.

"It is on this basis that, following discussion with the First Minister, I have today directed Her Majesty's Inspector of Constabulary to undertake a formal investigation and review of call handling and process within Police Scotland's Contact Command and Control Centres.

"I have spoken to the chief constable and this review has the full support of Police Scotland.

"This independent review will provide the Scottish Government with an accurate picture of capacity and capability at present, and clearly identify any issues so they can be promptly remedied.

"This will assist in providing assurance around the operation of call handling within Police Scotland's Contact Command and Control Centres. On completion the report will be submitted to ministers, who will consider its recommendations."

A spokesman for the PIRC said: "The commissioner will rigorously pursue a full independent investigation to establish the circumstances of what happened and will focus on why a telephone call made to Police Scotland three days earlier, which reported their car was off the road, was not followed up.

"The commissioner will also examine the robustness of Police Scotland's missing person inquiry and look at why that inquiry was not linked with the information received in the call, while examining the police procedures used to log this particular call made from a member of the public.

"Given the early stage of inquiries it is inappropriate to speculate as to what the outcome will be."

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