Report of a Complaint Handling Review in relation to Central Scotland Police

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1 Case reference: PCCS/00410/12/CSP June 2013 Report of a Complaint Handling Review in relation to Central Scotland Police under section 35(1) of the Police Public Order and Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 2006 Summary and Key Findings The complaints dealt with in this report arose following the police investigation into a road collision involving the applicant. One complaint was considered which was found not to have dealt with to a reasonable standard. A single recommendation was made in this connection. A further complaint regarding the length of time taken to deal with the complaint was upheld. For the reason given however, no recommendation was made in this connection. On 1 April 2013 the Police Service of Scotland assumed responsibility for policing in Scotland. Accordingly, responsibility for implementing the recommendation lies with the Police Service of Scotland.

2 The role of PIRC One of the roles performed by the Police Investigations & Review Commissioner ( the Commissioner ) is to examine the way in which the police deal with particular kinds of complaints. In performing this role, the Commissioner obtains information about the complaint from the policing body against whom the complaint was made. This information is considered together with information provided by the person who made the complaint ( the applicant ). An assessment is then made as to whether in all the circumstances the complaint was dealt with to a reasonable standard. Among the factors which are taken into account when making this assessment are the following: whether the policing body s response to the complaint is supported by all material information available; whether in dealing with the complaint the policing body has adhered to all relevant policies, procedures and legal provisions; whether sufficient enquiries into the complaint have been carried out by the policing body; and where the complaint has resulted in the policing body identifying measures neces sary to improve its service, whether these measures are adequate and have been implemented; whether the policing body s response to the complaint is adequately reasoned. Background On 30 May 2012 the applicant was riding his motor cycle on a main road which has one lane in each direction and which had temporary traffic lights installed as a consequence of road works. The traffic ahead of the applicant was in a stationary queue and the applicant continued to ride his motorcycle on the outside of the queue of traffic along the centre of the road. Mr A was waiting to emerge onto the main road, intending to cross the stationary queue of traffic and travel in the opposite direction from that of the applicant and others in this queue. According to Mr B, who was within his car in the stationary in the queue of traffic, he saw the lights ahead change to green and the traffic in front of him moved on. Mr B saw that there was no traffic travelling towards him and he left a gap and waved Mr A out from the junction allowing him to cross his path in order to join the main road. According to Mr A he drove his car out slowly but as he did so the applicant also arrived at the junction and a collision occurred between the applicant s motor cycle and his car. The applicant fell from his motor cycle and both vehicles were damaged. Ms C was also stationary in the queue of traffic and saw the motor cycle driving up the outside of the traffic and collide with Mr A s car. Mr J was also in the queue of traffic and saw Mr A s car emerging and the motor cycle driving up the outside of the traffic but he did not see the collision as his view was obstructed by a bus. 1

3 Constables D and E attended at the scene and interviewed Mr B, Ms C and Mr J. Mr B and Ms C placed blame for the accident with the applicant whereas Mr J was unsure but said that the car driven by Mr A was definitely not at fault. The ambulance service attended and the applicant, believed at that time to have a spinal injury, was removed to hospital as was Mr A who was suffering from shock. According to the applicant, before being removed to hospital, Constable D told him that the other driver never looked in my direction. The applicant believes that, by making this alleged comment, Mr A has effectively admitted fault. Constable D submitted an Insurance Road Accident Report in which she listed the applicant s motorcycle as vehicle number 1 and stated that independent witnesses placed the blame for the collision on the applicant. The same report listed the applicant s injuries as broken spine and broken pinkie. On 1 October 2012 the applicant s solicitor obtained precognition statements from Constables D and E and on 8 October 2012 the applicant lodged his complaints with the police. Inspector F was appointed to investigate the complaint. A statement of complaint was noted from the applicant on 13 November The Complaints The following complaints have been identified: (1) that officers conducting enquiry into a road crash involving the applicant did not follow correct procedures; and (2) that the applicant did not receive a response to his complaint by the date stated by the police and did not receive an explanation for this delay. The Review This section sets out the Commissioner s views on the manner in which the complaints were handled by Central Scotland Police. Complaint 1: alleged failure to follow correct procedures In his statement the applicant highlighted the following matters in support of his complaint: little investigation took place at the scene and no measurements or photographs were taken; neither driver/rider was breathalysed; and that in the Police Accident Report the applicant s motorcycle should not have been recorded as vehicle 1 and he should not have been recorded as having been to blame for the crash. 2

4 Internal Handling Following his investigation, Inspector F submitted a report which detailed the evidence which he had considered and the conclusions which he had reached in respect of the applicant s complaint. In his report Inspector F said that he had examined Constable D s police notebook and confirmed that she had not made a detailed sketch of the position of the vehicles and any marks at the scene. He also said that Constables D and E had failed to breathalyse those involved in the collision and failed to record the reasons for not having done so. Inspector F arranged for a Road Policing Unit officer, Inspector G, to review the available evidence and provide an opinion on the circumstances of the collision. Inspector G concluded that both the applicant and Mr A were partially to blame and that the best course of action would be to report both to the Procurator Fiscal for careless driving. In his report Inspector F referred to Central Scotland Police s Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) relating to the Reporting of Collisions and Accidents which state: Generally speaking Police Reports in respect of contraventions of the Road Traffic Act 1988, Sections 2 or 3 will only be submitted where there has been injury [emphasis in original] or flagrant recklessness or carelessness. In all cases, when evidence of reckless or careless driving is available, Section 2 or 3 reports should be submitted when other offences are being reported. Inspector F went on: If [Constable D] found herself in a position whereby she had apportioned blame to a particular party, and there has been injury, the matter should have been reported to the Procurator Fiscal. Following an instruction from Superintendent H on 21 November 2012, a report was submitted to the Procurator Fiscal in respect of alleged offences by both Mr A and the applicant. In his statement the applicant repeated his concern regarding Constable D s alleged comments in the rear of the ambulance about Mr A failing to look in his direction. Inspector F had regard to the response made by Mr A when questioned by Constable D. The words attributed to Constable D by the applicant were not included in that response and furthermore Mr A made no mention of whether or not he looked in the applicant s direction. Inspector F traced the two ambulance service employees who attended to the applicant at the scene but they had no recollection of the officers speaking to the applicant in the ambulance. On 12 December 2012, Superintendent H provided the following response to the applicant s complaint: In regards to taking photographs this would only usually be carried out in very serious or fatal collisions. I note the seriousness of your injury, and the continuing impact that this is subsequently having, however, I can confirm [Inspector F s] position that Police will not routinely take photographs at the scene of a collision. If this does not meet with your expectations, I can only apologise. 3

5 Consideration.. in regard to scene examination and the recording of vehicle positions and marks at the locus, enquiries made by [Inspector F] support your position and this is a situation I find regrettable and once again apologise. This aspect of your complaint is upheld. you also assert that neither driver was breath tested. Enquiries carried out by [Inspector F] have established that the requirements of the Road Traffic Act and the relevant Central Scotland Police Standard Operating Procedure have not been met and again, for this I must apologise. This aspect of your complaint has been upheld and will be addressed with the officers concerned. Finally, in regards to the apportioning of blame by the reporting officer, [Constable D], the statements noted from witnesses and the circumstances surrounding the collision have been considered by [Inspector G], the officer in charge of the Road Policing Unit and his position is as follows:- both drivers are partially to blame In addition to witness testimony and replies to caution, this is based on the following observations: Motorcyclists can safely perform manoeuvres which a car driver may think to be unsafe particularly passing stationary traffic. That said, the rider has to pay particular attention to the stationary traffic if they perform an unexpected manoeuvre, checking junctions etc. Such an overtake is not in itself dangerous but there is also a presumption that the rider can stop in the distance they can see to be clear. Speed must be reduced to take cognisance of the very situation that has happened here. Conversely, the motorcyclist being on the main carriageway has priority and it is for the driver of the emerging car to ensure that it is safe to turn out regardless of whether another motorist indicates that it is safe. Also it is daylight and I understand that the motorcyclist had its headlight on. With that in mind it is reasonable to assume that either the driver should have seen the motorcyclist or if there was a restricted view to the right he should have waited until the traffic had cleared and is therefore partly to blame. Further to the aforementioned, [Inspector G] has raised the point that in the circumstances, consideration should have been given to having both drivers reported for the offence of Careless Driving In keeping with your expectations, I have directed that the Road Accident Report pertaining to your collision is updated to show the position as asserted by [Inspector G]. This information is available to your insurer should they require it. Measurements/Photographs In his report Inspector F confirmed that Constable D had not made a detailed sketch of the position of the vehicles or marks at the scene. The response to the applicant upheld this aspect of 4

6 the complaint and an apology was given in this connection. The Commissioner considers this to be reasonable outcome in connection with this aspect of the complaint. The response to the applicant advised that photographs were only usually taken in very serious or fatal collisions. The Central Scotland Police Insurance Accident Report records that the applicant sustained a broken spine and the Accident Severity section of the report records the status as Serious. In the Commissioner s view, those factors at least indicate that this accident met the criteria where photographing the scene should have been considered. The Commissioner therefore recommends that the police provide a further response to the applicant explaining why the circumstances of the collision did not warrant the scene being photographed. Driver/Rider not Breathalysed The response to the applicant acknowledged that Constables D and E had not complied with procedures in connection with breath testing. The officers were to be spoken to in this connection. The Commissioner considers that this was a reasonable outcome in connection with this aspect of the complaint. Police Accident Report In his report Inspector F recorded that vehicle number 1 in a police accident report is normally used to indicate the offending driver. In the response to the complaint the applicant was informed that the accident report would be amended to reflect the opinion of Inspector G. While no commitment was given to alter the applicant s vehicle from being vehicle number 1 the Commissioner is nevertheless satisfied that the report was altered to reflect the available evidence. The applicant was also advised that this updated report would be made available to his insurance company on request. The Commissioner considers this to be reasonable outcome. Notwithstanding the above the Commissioner notes that, during his investigation, Inspector F identified that, as the applicant had been injured and that the civilian witnesses had apportioned blame for the collision to the applicant, Constable D should have submitted a report to the Procurator Fiscal. Unfortunately, Superintendent H s response did not refer to this failure to comply with procedure. In the Commissioner s view, this was material information which should have been communicated to the applicant. Constable D s alleged comments Superintendent H s response did not refer to this aspect of the applicant s complaint. The Commissioner notes, however, that neither ambulance technician recall such a conversation having taken place. Although a statement was not obtained from Constable D during the complaint investigation, the account provided to her by Mr A at the time of the collision was provided to the Commissioner s office. It is noted that Mr A did not make any reference to not having looked in the applicant s direction. Furthermore, there is evidence from an independent witness that Mr A did look in both directions as he exited. On balance, the Commissioner does not consider there to be sufficient evidence to substantiate this complaint. 5

7 In light of the fact that Superintendent H s response did not respond to this aspect of the applicant s complaint and that material information was omitted from his response, the Commissioner does not consider the complaint to have been dealt with to a reasonable standard. However, on account of the explanation provided by the Commissioner, no recommendation is made in this connection. Complaint 2: delayed response In his application to the Commissioner the applicant complained that the response to his complaints was not received until 15 December 2012 and that he had been given no explanation for the delay. Consideration The applicant lodged his original complaints in a letter to the police dated 8 October On 12 October Superintendent H wrote to the applicant advising that Inspector F had been appointed as the enquiry officer and that the aim was to complete the investigation and respond to him within 8 weeks, on this occasion by 7 December The applicant was also advised if there was a delay in meeting this date the investigating officer would keep him updated on developments. Inspector F carried out his enquiry and submitted a report dated 20 November A final letter of response, dated 12 December 2012, was sent to the applicant by Superintendent H. On 18 December Central Scotland Police recorded that the applicant acknowledged having received Superintendent H s letter on 15 December There is no dispute that the target date of 7 December 2012 for responding to the applicant was missed, although only by a few days. Nevertheless, the applicant was advised that he would be updated if the target could not be met and there is no evidence that this happened. For that reason, although the Commissioner has no issue with the initial target date being exceeded by a small margin, the complaint is upheld. As the delay in responding was minimal the Commissioner does not consider it necessary to recommend any further action in this connection. Conclusions, Recommendations and Learning Complaint 1: alleged failure to follow correct procedures In the Commissioner s view, this complaint was not dealt with to a reasonable standard. The Commissioner recommends that the police provide a further response to the applicant explaining why the circumstances of the collision did not warrant the scene being photographed. Complaint 2: delayed response The Commissioner upholds this complaint. As the delay in responding was minimal the Commissioner does not consider it necessary to recommend any further action in this connection. 6

8 John McNeill Police Investigations and Review Commissioner Hamilton House Caird Park Hamilton ML3 0QA 7

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