A report by the Police Investigations & Review Commissioner (PIRC) has found that officers who pursued a stolen car before it was involved in a high speed collision were not trained or authorised to do so.

The one mile pursuit, which took place in the early hours of Thursday 22 November 2018 between Cleland and Newmains, ended when the car hit a crash barrier, leaving the road and rolling upside down. The driver was seriously injured and required hospital treatment.

The PIRC report, published today (7 June, 2019), has recommended to Police Scotland that the two officers involved in the incident receive refresher driver training, with a particular emphasis on the roles and responsibilities of vehicle pursuits.  

The car involved in the incident was reported stolen from Wishaw shortly after 0300 hours by a man who was reported to be drunk. It was then spotted by the officers, who were on patrol on the A73, at a roundabout in Bellside, Cleland. The officers activated the marked police car’s blue lights, indicating the driver to stop, but he drove off at high speed towards Newmains. The officers followed with the car’s blue lights activated, constituting a ‘pursuit’ within Police Scotland’s procedures.

The PIRC report found that one of the officers told the Area Control Room, in error, that he was a ‘standard driver’, meaning he was trained to engage in a vehicle pursuit. The officer was actually a ‘basic driver’, meaning he was not trained to engage in a pursuit.

The incident was referred to the PIRC by Police Scotland for independent investigation on 22 November 2018. The investigation examined the actions of the officers involved in the pursuit. The man was charged and later convicted.

In a second report published today, the PIRC has made three recommendations to Police Scotland about the use of the Criminal History System (CHS) and Police National Computer (PNC), following the serious injury of a 31-year-old woman in Fife.

The report found that a 34-year-old man, who was on bail for two separate matters, was arrested at his house on 22 June 2018 in connection with a robbery charge.

At that time the police saw a 31-year-old woman at the house. It was a condition of the man’s bail for another matter that the man should not approach or make contact with the woman.

The man was taken to Police Scotland’s Dundee custody centre where it was established that he had in fact already been arrested for the robbery in May 2018, however this information had not been updated on the PNC. He was immediately released and taken back to his house, where the woman was still present. The woman later reported that the man assaulted her during a domestic incident later that evening, causing a serious injury.

The PIRC investigation revealed that Police Scotland staff had not updated the PNC following the man’s initial arrest on 15 May 2018. That failure led to the man being re-arrested on the same matter on 22 June 2018. The PIRC investigation also revealed that Police Scotland staff failed to carry out checks on the CHS either prior to the man’s arrest or before he was released from custody. Had they done so, they would have known to arrest the man for breaching his bail by having contact with the woman.

The incident was referred to the PIRC by Police Scotland on 25 June 2018. The investigation looked at the actions of police officers and staff involved, the information available on police systems in relation to the man and whether the assault on the woman could have been prevented. During the course of the investigation, the woman withdrew her initial account that the man had assaulted her and said that her injury had been caused during a previous unrelated incident.

The PIRC report made a number of recommendations to police, including that officers be reminded of the requirement to update the PNC when a person has been traced; that they are trained in and understand the different information held on police systems; they ensure that bail and other checks are completed before arrested persons are released from custody and that these checks are recorded in custody systems.

You can read each of the reports, published today (7 June, 2019) and their findings here (Cleland/Newmains) and here (Fife).