Man died after ‘dismissive’ police controller failed to pass on information

A police controller failed to pass on information from a 999 call properly the evening before a man was found dead, a report has found.

The Police Investigations and Review Commissioner (Pirc) found the controller in the control room at Bilston Glen was “dismissive” of the caller’s concerns and sent officers to the wrong location – where they found nothing on the evening of March 24.

The body of a 51-year-old man was found in a flat in Edinburgh on March 25 2018.

The police watchdog’s report said a man called 999 late on the evening of March 24 2018 to report he could hear banging, shouting and raised voices coming from a nearby flat.

He added on a previous occasion there had been a fight inside the flat, which resulted in a female being attacked.

The controller who managed the incident was dismissive of the man as she felt he was someone who abused the 999 system to report minor matters, many of which she considered were not matters for the police to deal with.

The Pirc report found she failed to pass “accurate and relevant information” to officers and wrongly told them there was a disturbance in the street and a female was being attacked.

When they arrived at the scene at around 11.10pm on March 24 the officers carried out a general search of the area and found no disturbance.

As a result they did not go to either the flat where the 51-year-old man’s body was later found or speak to the man who had made the 999 call.

They subsequently told staff at the control room no disturbance was taking place in the street.

A post-mortem examination found the 51-year-old man died from a combination of drugs in his system.

The Pirc report found that had the controller taken the 999 call more seriously she should have sent the officers to the disturbance in the flat rather than the street, which would have allowed officers to establish the well-being of the man, later found dead.

It stated: “The Police Scotland reporter was dismissive of the reporter as she knew him to be a repeat user of the 999 system to report, in her opinion trivial matters.

“Had she taken the report more seriously she should have sent the officers to the disturbance in the flat, resulting in clarity being established in relation to the deceased’s well-being at that time.”

The watchdog recommended the staff member should be reminded of the need to deal professionally with all calls from members of the public and accurately pass relevant information to operational officers.

Pirc also said when the name of the person calling 999 is known, officers should make contact with them to clarify information so they can investigate properly.

The Bilston Glen control room was criticised following the deaths of John Yuill and Lamara Bell in July 2015.

The couple lay undiscovered for days after a crash on the M9 near Stirling despite a sighting of their wrecked car being reported to the control room.

A review of call handling was ordered by the Scottish Government in the wake of the tragedy.

Commenting on the incident in Edinburgh, Contact Command and Control Divisional Commander Chief Superintendent Roddy Newbigging said: “We accept the findings of the Police Investigations and Review Commissioner and will respond to the recommendations in due course.

“Police Scotland carried out our own internal review following the incident and necessary steps have already been taken to address issues raised in the commissioner’s report.

“We will also direct controllers to remind officers of their responsibility to contact named reporters where appropriate.”

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