A report by the Police Investigations and Review Commissioner (PIRC) has reminded the police of the importance of acting quickly when carrying out searches during firearms operations.

The recommendation was made to Police Scotland following a firearms operation in which a woman reported that a man had threatened to shoot her with a crossbow.

This recommendation has since been implemented as Police Scotland has provided additional guidance to all police officers involved in or commanding firearms operations on their use of emergency powers of entry and search when taking part in such incidents.

The report, published today (29 March 2019), found that police were alerted at 0129 hours on 14 August 2017 when they received a 999 call from a woman reporting that a man had threatened to shoot her with a crossbow at his home in Falkirk.

The woman called the police again ten minutes later, advising that 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 0145 hours armed police officers were instructed to go to the man's home, where they surrounded the property.

Over the next three hours armed officers made a number of unsuccessful attempts to contact the man.

At 0538 hours armed officers then forced entry to the house and carried out a search but found no-one. Around half an hour 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 that 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.

The report also found that 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 14 August 2017, as is standard procedure for any situation where firearms are presented. The investigation focused on Police Scotland's handling of the incident. 

The report recommended that Police Scotland ensures that 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.

You can read the full report and findings here.