Watchdog criticises failure to act on 999 calls during Penicuik assaults

editorial image

A serious assault in Penicuik left a homeless man permanently disfigured despite the fact he repeatedly called 999 for help during the attacks.

Now Scotland’s police watchdog has ruled it could have been prevented.

In a damning report into Police Scotland’s Bilston Glen call centre, the victim was left to endure further attacks because staff at the facility said no officers were available to attend the incident.

The Police Investigations & Review Commissioner (Pirc) said a controller at the Edinburgh call centre failed to prioritise the incident and direct officers to deal with the reported assault

It said managers at Bilston Glen subsequently failed to notify the Pirc and senior Police Scotland managers of the serious incident in accordance with procedure.

The incident happened at homeless accommodation in the early hours of September 3 last year.

The man called 999 at 2am and told Police Scotland that he had been seriously assaulted by another resident after he was asked by to take part in the rape of a woman, who was also living at the homeless accommodation, but refused.

He phoned again after a second assault at 2.21am, but on neither occasion did the controller direct officers to attend, nor did he appear to realise the implications of the fact the attacker was still present.

A further call was received at 2:47am from a member of the public who reported a disturbance. Again, the control room said no resources were available to attend.

The man was assaulted for a third time just after 3am, and sometime, probably between the second and third assault entry was forced to the woman’s room and an attempt made to rape her.

At 3,24am details of the incidents were brought to the attention of a local police sergeant who attended arriving at 3.43am, supported shortly thereafter by other officers.

Police found the injured man unconscious suffering from severe injuries, including facial injuries which required reconstructive surgery.

At 4,14am police discovered the woman in her room at which time she reported that the man had attempted to rape her.

The Pirc said police officers were directed to attend lower priority calls by Bilston Glen and that it appeared that “no thought had been given” to re-deploy local officers or task resources from adjoining areas or other police units.

Police Scotland’s Assistant Chief Constable John Hawkins said: “Our officers and staff work with commitment and professionalism day in, day out to provide a high quality police service for the public.

“We accept the commissioner’s findings and I am sorry that we did not meet those high standards on this occasion.

“We recognise the significant impact this has had on the people involved. We have already identified and addressed a number of the concerns highlighted.”