Police Scotland Chief Constable apologises for M9 crash deaths

Chief Constable Iain Livingstone of Police Scotland (Andrew Milligan/PA) (PA Wire)
17:52pm, Tue 07 Sep 2021
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The head of Police Scotland has apologised to the families of two people who died in a crash on the M9 that was not investigated for three days despite being reported to police.

John Yuill, 28, was pronounced dead at the scene on July 8, 2015, and his partner, Lamara Bell, 25, died four days later in hospital.

The High Court in Edinburgh heard on Tuesday that medical experts believed Lamara Bell could have survived with faster treatment.

Their car came off the motorway near Stirling and plunged down an embankment on July 5.

Lamara Bell and John Yuill’s deaths were a tragedy and my thoughts today are with their children, families and friends

A member of the public called police to report the crashed car that day, but no action was taken until another member of the public noticed the car three days later, heard Ms Bell pleading for help and called the police.

The Office of the Chief Constable of Police Scotland was fined £100,000 at the court on Tuesday after admitting faults that “materially contributed” to Ms Bell’s death.

The 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.

“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.”

Chief Constable Iain Livingstone arriving for a hearing in the M9 death crash case at Edinburgh High Court (Andrew Milligan/PA) (PA Wire)

He said that when he took up his post in August 2018 he committed to the force fully co-operating with the Crown Office investigation into the crash.

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

“None of those investigations or inquiries 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.

“The call-handling system in place in 2015 exposed the public to an unacceptable risk and led to tragedy.

“People are entitled to expect help when their police service tells them they will respond.

“Our failure in July 2015 undoubtedly weakened the relationship of trust that exists in Scotland between policing and the communities we serve.”

Mr Livingstone said since then there had been “significant improvements” to address risks associated with call handling and across the service.

He said Police Scotland would fully co-operate with any other inquiries that occur.

John Yuill and Lamara Bell died in July 2015 (Police Scotland/PA) (PA Media)

The Crown Office said in a statement that work had started on holding a fatal accident inquiry into the crash and “further information on the process will be made public when possible”.

Following the court hearing Scotland’s top law officer, the Lord Advocate Dorothy Bain QC, said the guilty plea was “the culmination of a highly complex and thorough investigation carried out by the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service and the Police Investigations and Review Commissioner”.

She added: “I appreciate that the time taken for a decision regarding proceedings must have been extremely difficult and stressful for the family and friends of Lamara Bell and John Yuill.

“Nothing can remove the harm and sorrow suffered as a result of this tragic incident, but today’s outcome should give the people of Scotland confidence in the accountability placed upon its public authorities.”

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