PIRC identifies ‘clear inconsistencies’ in ACR grading system

The Police Investigations and Review Commissioner (PIRC) says lessons must be learned after a man’s body was found inside his van three days after a force was alerted by the public.

Oct 6, 2017

The Police Investigations and Review Commissioner (PIRC) says lessons must be learned after a man’s body was found inside his van three days after a force was alerted by the public. David Penman, 46, was found dead in the driver’s seat of his van on December 15, 2016, after inhaling the products of a small petrol generator inside the vehicle. It could not be established whether his death was accidental or deliberate. The PIRC identified failings in the way Police Scotland responded to three separate reports of concern from members of the public over a three-day period. Two recommendations were made to the force. Mr Penman’s vehicle was spotted by a local resident on December 13, 2016 in a layby on a quiet country road near Dunipace. The man contacted Police Scotland with concerns that it may have been stolen as he had seen it parked there three days previously. Staff at Bilston Glen Area Control Room (ACR) carried out a computer check on the vehicle and found it was not stolen, was taxed and insured, and was owned by a company in Stirling. The officer dealing with the incident in the ACR decided it was not necessary to attend and closed the incident. Another member of the public called the same ACR the next day reporting similar concerns and the report was dealt with by the same officer who took no further action. A third call was made on December 15 by another member of the public regarding an articulated lorry which had been on Old Northfield Road for three days. On this occasion, ACR staff decided officers should be sent to investigate the vehicle. Officers were despatched to Old Northfield Road four hours later. They discovered Mr Penman’s van and saw his body slumped in the driver’s seat. The circumstances leading up to the incident were referred to the PIRC by the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service. There were “clear inconsistencies” in the way Police Scotland ACR dealt with the three separate reports, according to the PIRC. The first two reports were graded as priority 4 responses which required scheduled police attendances, but no officers were sent to attend. And the third report was graded as a priority two response which required officers to be sent out to investigate within 15 minutes of the call. This did not happen until four hours later. The ACR controller dealing with the initial two reports considered the terms of Police Scotland’s Incident Prioritisation and Response Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) suggesting that if a report is received about a vehicle which has a current MOT, is taxed and insured, is not causing an obstruction and has not been reported stolen, then officers do not have to attend. However, the PIRC found they did not consider the Parking, Abandoned Vehicle and Vehicle Licensing SOP which says a “vehicle which has been stationary for a significant amount of time” should be treated as an abandoned vehicle. Although it is impractical for the force to deal with all reports of abandoned vehicles, in this case ACR staff should have contacted the vehicle’s owners and undertook some form of enquiry, the PIRC said. It was recommended that Police Scotland should adopt a flexible approach to reports of abandoned or suspicious vehicles and contact the owners before deciding whether or not to undertake further enquiries. PIRC Commissioner Kate Frame said: “It would be unrealistic to expect the police to investigate each report of an abandoned vehicle. “However, in this case had the repeated concerns expressed by members of the public been acted on earlier, additional information would have been available which may have prompted officers to locate and search the van in the layby sooner. “While it cannot be determined that if police had acted when the deceased’s vehicle was first reported, he would have been found alive, there are important lessons to be learned in how police deal with similar incidents in the future.” Assistant Chief Constable Nelson Telfer said: “Our thoughts remain with the family of

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