PIRC criticises accuracy of information sharing at Police Scotland

The Police Investigations and Review Commissioner (PIRC) has found several failings into the way officers responded to reports of concern for a vulnerable woman, who was later found dead.

Aug 18, 2017

The Police Investigations and Review Commissioner (PIRC) has found several failings into the way officers responded to reports of concern for a vulnerable woman, who was later found dead. On February 19, 2016, at 10.07pm, the daughter of a 52-year-old woman contacted Police Scotland expressing concern for her mother – who had previously self-harmed and attempted suicide – because she had not visited her home as arranged and was not answering her calls or text messages. As a member of staff at the Area Control Room (ACR) took details of the woman, she failed to spot that as a result of a known issue between the Gazetteer mapping system and the command and control systems, the address was misinterpreted and officers were sent to the wrong location. Although the officers were provided with the 52-year-old woman’s name, the ACR did not give them her age, any physical description, and did not disclose the fact that she was a vulnerable person. Arriving at the wrong address at 10.35pm, the officers found an 84-year-old woman in her bed, took her name, but failed to realise it was different to the name they had been provided with. The officers then informed ACR they found the woman they were looking for, but did not provide them with the name of the person they had spoken to. At around 2am, the daughter went to her mother’s home and called Police Scotland as she received no reply. As an officer was on his way, he discovered the mistake in attending the wrong address Officers eventually forced entry at the correct address 40 minutes later, and found the 52-year-old woman dead inside. A post-mortem examination found she had overdosed on prescribed medication, and suggested her time of death was likely between six and 24 hours before she was found. Commissioner Kate Frame criticised the officers who attended the call for not undertaking basic checks to confirm the elderly woman at the wrong address was the right person. She also identified failings with the ACR staff failing to provide relevant information to the officers, and confusion between the two over who had responsibility to update the woman’s daughter. Ms Frame added: “This case demonstrates again the need for clarity within Police Scotland as to who assumes responsibility for updating those who report incidents and are best placed to identify whether the correct information has been acted on at the earliest opportunity. “This case highlights the need for Police Scotland to ensure that all available relevant information is accurately transmitted to front line operational officers and for them to act on it appropriately to achieve the service the public expect. “Whilst I recognise from the medical evidence obtained in this particular case that it is likely the 52-year-old woman was dead by the time the alarm was raised, it does not diminish the particular failures identified or the additional distress caused to the woman’s family.” Assistant Chief Constable Nelson Telfer said significant work has been undertaken to improve the Gazetteer system to ensure the correct address information is presented on Police Scotland’s systems since the incident. “We acknowledge and accept the recommendations made by the Commissioner in her report and took steps last year to address the issues she has now identified,” he added. “The officers who attended the initial incident mistakenly identified another individual as being Ms Bridge. Had this mistake not been made Police Scotland would not have updated her family that she was safe and well. “ACR and Service Centre staff undertake regular training to assist our response to incidents involving risk and vulnerability. This is ongoing for all staff. “We accept we did not get it right in this case and will continue to work to provide excellent frontline policing across Scotland.”

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