Police chief apologises as force slapped with £100k fine over young mum's crash death

By Stuart McFarlane

Police Scotland have admitted health and safety failings led to the death of a young mother following a car crash near Stirling in 2015.

The deaths of John Yuill, 28 and Lamara Bell, 25, prompted criticism of the force after their car lay undiscovered down the embankment on the M9 near Bannockburn - with officers taking three days to arrive at the scene after the accident was reported.

When police did arrive at the car, they found Mr Yuill already dead and Ms Bell seriously injured.

The young mother went on to pass away in hospital a short time later.

At the High Court in Edinburgh on Tuesday, the force pleaded guilty to a charge under the Health and Safety Act and admitted its failings over the case had “materially contributed” to Ms Bell’s death.

Police officers search the scene on the side of the road near Bannockburn (Andrew Milligan/PA Wire)

They were fined £100,000.

Judge Lord Beckett said no sentence would likely make up for the tragedy and said while a private company likely would have faced a fine running into the millions, Police Scotland was a public body funded by the taxpayer.

Yesterday Lamara’s mum, Diane Bell, said: “Finally, we can say – Lamara has justice.

“It has taken a long time for this conviction to be secured but it is a huge relief that Police Scotland has finally admitted being at fault for Lamara’s death. I’d like to thank everyone who has supported us since 2015.

“Our family and friends, the local community, our legal team and also the media whose spotlight helped make sure the failures that led to Lamara’s death could not be swept under the rug.”

Following the hearing, Police Scotland Chief Constable Iain Livingstone said: "Lamara Bell and John Yuill’s deaths were a tragedy and my thoughts today are with their children, families and friends.

“The preservation of life and helping people who are in crisis go to the heart of our duty to keep people safe.

"Police Scotland failed Lamara and John in that duty, and for that I am sorry.

“On behalf of policing in Scotland, I apologise unreservedly to their families.

Chief Constable Iain Livingstone apologised for the force's failings (PA)

“And if the families agree to do so, I would welcome the opportunity to meet with them, when they are ready, to personally convey my apology.

“When I took up the Office of Chief Constable I gave a commitment that the Police Service of Scotland would co-operate fully with the Crown Office investigation into this tragedy.

“Police Scotland has fully participated with the inspections, investigations and enquiries established since July 2015 to identify what went wrong and safeguard against those failings being repeated in the future.

“None of those investigations or enquiries change what happened or provide any consolation to the families involved, but I do offer an assurance that lessons have been learned and improvements made."

During the court hearing, the office of the Chief Constable of Police Scotland admitted that it failed to ensure that people including Mr Yuill and Ms Bell were not exposed to risks to their health and safety by failing to provide an “adequate and reliable call-handling system” between April 1, 2013 and March 1, 2016.

The force admitted that members of the public were exposed to risks to their health and safety and, in particular on July 5, 2015, a police officer at the force call-handling centre at Bilston Glen Service Centre failed to record a phone call from a member of the public reporting that a vehicle was at the bottom of an embankment at the side of the eastbound junction nine slip road from the M80 on to the M9.

The indictment says the phone call was not recorded on any Police Scotland IT system and the failure went unnoticed with “no proper consideration of the report and no opportunity for an appropriate response from Police Scotland”.

The tragic crash took place in July 2015 when the Falkirk couple were returning from a camping trip in Perthshire before John’s car came off the motorway and slid down the embankment by the side of the busy motorway.

A member of the public who spotted the vehicle called police but, despite the call being answered, it was not logged on police systems and it wasn’t until a similar call was made three days later that officers were dispatched and found the car.


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