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10 July 2015
Sir Stephen House apologises to families of couple left in crashed car for three days

Sir Stephen House apologises to families of couple left in crashed car for three days

Scotland’s chief constable has admitted it is “without doubt” police failed the families of a couple found in a crashed car three days after the accident was reported to police.

John Yuill died and Lamara Bell was left critically injured after their Renault Clio crashed on the M9 motorway near Stirling.

However, the pair were only found by officers on Wednesday, three days after an initial call was made to Police Scotland which reported their car was off the road.

An investigation into the circumstances surrounding the death of 28-year-old Mr Yuill and serious injury of 25-year-old Ms Bell is now being conducted by the Police Investigations and Review Commissioner (PIRC).

Sir Stephen House said: “Firstly I want to apologise to the families of John Yuill and Lamara Bell and to the people of Scotland for this individual failure in our service. Everyone in Police Scotland feels this most profoundly.

“I completely understand the level of concern being raised about the circumstances surrounding the handling of the incident of the crash near the M9 slip road at Bannockburn, and in particular, Police Scotland’s response to information received.

“That we failed both families involved is without doubt. 

“However, I want to make clear to members of the public, and all those who have rightly expressed concern, that the mistakes made in not responding to the call from a member of the public on Sunday 5th July arose because the information received was not entered onto our systems.”

A member of the public called Police Scotland via their 101 service just before 11.30am last Sunday to report that they could see a vehicle down an embankment near the M9 slip road, said House.

Callers receive an electronic options menu after which the call was answered within six seconds of that message by an experienced officer and relevant details provided, added the chief constable.

“For reasons yet to be established this call was not entered onto our police systems and not actioned out to operational teams in the Stirling area to respond and trace the vehicle,” said House.

“Shortly before 10am on 8th July 2015 a second call was made to Police Scotland via the 101 system. This call was answered, recorded and allocated to operational teams who located Mr Yuill and Ms Bell within their car."

House said the incident had "rightly" been reported to PIRC and that Police Scotland would remain independent of the investigation. 

The Chief Constable’s statement came after Scottish Lib Dem leader Willie Rennie wrote to the Cabinet Secretary for Justice, Michael Matheson, urging him to launch a further inquiry that would run alongside the PIRC probe. 

A broader assessment of the impact of police control room closures, workload pressure, reports of a targets culture and staff morale should be included in the terms of any investigation, said Rennie.

In his letter, he wrote: “My constituents believe that a wider, independent inquiry is necessary. I agree with them.

“There is a growing body of evidence to suggest that the decision to close a number of police control rooms has had a detrimental impact on the quality of service that hard-working call centre staff are able to provide.

“Our response to this incident must allow for a close examination of the current situation in Police Scotland’s remaining call centres."

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