An investigation report has found that if police had attended an initial report of a serious assault they could have prevented a subsequent attack on a man, which left him seriously injured and permanently disfigured.
The report, for the Police Investigations & Review Commissioner (PIRC), found that a Controller at Bilston Glen Area Control Room (ACR) failed to prioritise the incident and direct officers to deal with the reported assault.
It added that ACR managers subsequently failed to notify the PIRC and senior Police Scotland managers of the serious incident in accordance with procedure.
The report concluded that the failings identified were individual and not organisational and a number of measures have since been put in place by Police Scotland to improve the management of calls based on an assessment of threat, risk and harm.
The incident happened at homeless accommodation in Penicuik in the early hours of 3 September 2018. The man called 999 at 2 am and told Police Scotland that he had been seriously assaulted by another resident, needed medical attention and that the person responsible was still there.
The report found that the man was assaulted after he was asked by the other resident to take part in the rape of a woman, who was also living at the homeless accommodation, but he refused.
The reported assault was passed to Bilston Control Room (ACR) but the Controller said no officers were available to attend and did not send any officers to the incident.
At 2.21 am the injured man phoned 999 again to report a second assault on him by the same man and stated that he had a number of head injuries and was bleeding heavily.
A few minutes later Bilston ACR staff called for an ambulance to attend but no police officers were sent because the ACR controller said no resources were available.
Police Scotland received a further phone call at 2.47 am by a member of the public who reported a disturbance outside the homeless accommodation. Again, no police officers were sent as the ACR said no resources were available to attend.
The Scottish Ambulance Service initially did not send an ambulance as they did not have an ambulance available.
Just after 3 am, the injured man was assaulted for a third time by the same man who punched and kicked him to the head and body whilst he was lying on the ground.
At some point, between the second assault and the third assault, the man forced entry to the female resident’s room and attempted to rape her.
The details of the incident were brought to the attention of the local police Sergeant at 3.24 am who attended the homeless accommodation, supported by other police officers, and found the man unconscious suffering from severe injuries, including facial injuries which required facial reconstructive surgery.
Just under an hour later, police officers discovered the woman in her room and she reported that the man who had carried out the assault had attempted to rape her.
The report found that during the course of the incidents, police officers in the area were directed to attend lower priority calls by Bilston ACR and it appeared that no thought had been given by the Controller to re-deploy local officers or task resources from adjoining areas or from other police units
The man who carried out the assault was arrested and later stood trial at the High Court, Edinburgh, and was found guilty of assault to severe injury and permanent disfigurement and assault with attempt to rape on 18 December 2018. He was detained in a state hospital for treatment for a mental health condition as he was considered to present a significant risk to his health, safety or welfare or the safety of others.
The trial judge Lord Mullholland was critical of the length of time it had taken police to attend in response to the victim’s emergency 999 calls. Police Scotland referred the incident to the PIRC on 24 December 2018, more than three months after the incident.
The report found that it was "highly likely" that the third assault on the man would not have occurred if the Bilston ACR Controller had directed officers to attend the initial reports of assault. Officers were instead sent to lower priority incidents. It also found that there was no ACR supervisory intervention or management of the incidents, despite them being visible to ACR supervisors from 2.17 am onwards.
The report could not determine whether, had the ACR Controller directed officers to attend the initial reports of a serious assault by the man, officers may have arrived in time to prevent the attempted rape of the woman.
The PIRC has made a number of recommendations to Police Scotland. You can read these and the findings of the Public Report here.