December 12 2013 Latest news:
Saturday, September 7, 2013
Norfolk Police have been slammed by the Independent Police Complaints Commission after a man was left in a ditch for four hours with life-threatening injuries, despite two police searches.
In July last year a 54-year-old man was found in a serious condition at a crash scene on the A47 near Wisbech by members of the public, several hours after police had twice searched the area.
Temporary deputy chief constable Charlie Hall has said that lessons had been learnt from the incident and has apologised to the man and his family. He said: “It is our aim to always provide the best possible service to every one of the many thousands of calls we respond to each day but we accept the IPCC’s findings that, on this occasion, our service fell below that expected.
“It is the sort of incident where we do have to rely on the officers on the scene. We have recently reviewed our road traffic collision policy and included in it guidelines for the thoroughness of searches to make sure we can account for all occupants.
“I accept in this case the searches were not as thorough as they should have been and can only apologise to the man and his family.”
The incident took place on July 8 2012 off the A47 at Walpole Highway, near Wisbech, when officers received reports of a damaged dark blue Peugeot at 11.20am. Officers conducted an initial inspection soon after but did not see the man.
The officers visited the car owner’s registered address nearby but could not find him. They then returned to the scene and carried out another unsuccessful search.
At 4.30pm that day, members of the public looked at the crashed car and found the owner in a ditch.
They called an ambulance and the man was taken to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, in King’s Lynn, where he was admitted with life threatening injuries.
It is understood that the injured man is still recovering from his injuries.
The IPCC investigation also found a control room operator breached the Data Protection Act by disclosing sensitive information to a member of the man’s family.
IPCC Commissioner Sarah Green said: “While there are no specific policies or training for police officers regarding the physical search of a given area in these circumstances, I think the officers should have spent more time and care carrying out searches at the scene.
“The medical evidence indicates the injured man must have been in the ditch, close to the car, at the time the police officers were there, and the officers’ failure to find him meant that valuable time was lost before he received medical attention.
“A control room operator also made an error of judgment in disclosing sensitive information to a family member and is being retrained by Norfolk Constabulary.”
Speaking of the data breach Mr Hall said: “All constabulary staff receive regular training to ensure they are fully aware of their personal responsibility for the robust management of sensitive personal information.
“We take any breaches of the Data Protection Act extremely seriously and this was reflected in the formal outcome in this case.”
While the investigation found that the searches should have been more thorough, it noted that the ditch was not easily visible and the area was overgrown. The report concluded that the officers’ failure to find the man was not an intentional omission and did not amount to a criminal offence or misconduct. However, the IPCC considered that there were potential performance issues which the force has addressed by management action for the officers.