PIRC commends officers' 'proportionate' attempts to subdue axe attacker

Two police officers who confronted a violent man armed with knives acted “courageously and professionally”, the Police Investigations and Review Commissioner (PIRC) has concluded.  

Aug 20, 2018
By Joe Shine

A report into the incident last year found that the 33-year-old man’s behaviour had been reported to Police Scotland numerous times, but he had not been detained or interviewed because of confusion over which police area should deal with him.  

The man had sent threatening messages to his ex-partner and their relatives in the days before the attack. 

However, the PIRC claims it is not possible to say whether arresting or questioning him would have prevented the events on April 13, 2017. 

The incident began after the man attacked the brother-in-law of his former partner with an axe in Vincent Street, Glasgow. A community enforcement officer was also struck as he tried to intervene. 

He then began to cut his own throat with knives before two officers discharged PAVA spray and used handcuffs and leg restraints to bring him under control.  

An ambulance was then called while the officers administered first aid on the man. He later died in hospital. 

The PIRC report found that the actions of the two officers to subdue the man were proportionate.

Following the incident, the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service instructed the PIRC to investigate the circumstances of the incident and the contact between the man, his ex-partner, her family and Police Scotland in the days leading up to the attack. 

It found that from April 9, Police Scotland was repeatedly contacted by family members of the man’s former partner after he began sending a series of threatening text messages.  

Following further calls from family members, officers visited them just before midnight on April 10 and a crime report was raised.  

Officers then advised the Area Control Room the next day that they intended to visit the man at his home.  

However, a sergeant told them not to attend his address as the crime had been committed in another policing division.  

The investigation was passed onto the division in which the crime was committed, but no further action was taken.  

The PIRC recommended that Police Scotland issues clear guidance to its officers regarding the ownership of criminal enquiries to ensure crime reports are dealt with within the appropriate timeframe, especially where there is a potential risk to the public. 

The force said this recommendation has already been implemented following its own review of the incident.  

Greater Glasgow Divisional Commander Chief Superintendent Brian McInulty added: “I am pleased that the PIRC praises the actions of my officers who attended and provided assistance during this very distressing incident. My thoughts remain with everyone involved.” 

A statement from the man’s family read: “He was a loving brother, son and father who is sorely missed. It has been over a year since his death and the circumstances surrounding it have made it difficult for us, as a family, to come to terms with.     

“At the time of his death he was suffering from serious mental health problems which led to his actions that day.  Mental illness can be completely debilitating and we hope that others who suffer are able to find the help they need.   

“We are aware of the PIRC report published today and the findings and recommendation contained within it and hope these will be considered carefully.  We now ask that our privacy is respected as we come to terms with our loss.” 

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