Importance of firearm search speeds highlighted after crossbow incident

A police watchdog report has highlighted the importance of acting quickly during firearm search operations after delays impacted a reported crossbow incident.

The Police Investigations and Review Commissioner (Pirc) recommendation comes after a woman reported a man had threatened to shoot her with a crossbow.

It has since been implemented, with Police Scotland providing additional guidance to officers involved in such operations.

Advice centres on their use of emergency powers of entry and search when taking part in such incidents.

The report, published on Friday, found police were alerted at 1.29am on August 14 2017 when they received a 999 call from a woman reporting a man had threatened to shoot her with a crossbow at his home in Falkirk.

She called the police again 10 minutes later, advising she had now left the man’s house and she was advised for her safety to leave the vicinity.

The incident was classified as a firearms incident and at 1.45am armed officers were instructed to go to the man’s home, where they surrounded the property.

Over the next three hours, police made a number of unsuccessful attempts to contact the man.

At 5.38am armed officers then forced entry to the house and carried out a search but found no-one.

Around 30 minutes later, armed officers went to a nearby address, following information provided by a separate caller.

The officers saw the man in the hallway there and due to the perceived threat he posed, they presented firearms at him.

He was detained as a suspect for the earlier assault, but was later released without charge.

The report found there were delays in contacting a tactical firearms commander and strategic firearms commander during the incident.

Although the decision to force entry and search the first property was correct, the instructions for doing so were not issued until four hours after the initial call to police.

It also found no attempt was made to get a warrant to search the man’s flat and the opportunity to carry out a full search and recover the crossbow was lost.

The incident was referred by Police Scotland to the Pirc on August 14 2017, as is standard procedure for any situation where firearms are presented.

The investigation focused on the force’s handling of the incident.

Recommendations were made that Police Scotland ensures all officers undertaking or commanding firearms operations are reminded of the legal basis for their powers, and of the need to explain and justify using such powers on an emergency basis.