Vulnerable man found dead after police ‘mishandled report of concern’
Police failed to record a report of concern for a vulnerable man who went missing and was later found dead, an investigation has indicated.
A Police Investigations and Review Commissioner (Pirc) report into the incident was published on Tuesday.
It had been commissioned to examine the events around the discovery of a 25-year-old man’s body on a beach near Musselburgh Harbour in East Lothian on October 13 2017.
The report established the man had been arrested on October 10 having caused a disturbance in the grounds of the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh.
He was taken to St Leonard’s Police Station in Edinburgh, where he told police staff he was suicidal and a Vulnerability Assessment Form was filled out.
Having appeared in court on October 11 and being released on bail, the man then returned to his partner’s flat the following day and was last seen at around 7pm when he left.
His partner phoned police at around 11.16pm when he failed to return and asked if he was in custody.
She was told he had not been arrested and she did not report him missing.
The following morning, she phoned police again and told them he had gone missing the previous day, believing he might be in custody.
A National Custody Database check confirmed the man had been in custody earlier in the week and the custody sergeant advised the call handler he may have been remanded in prison.
The call handler relayed the information to the man’s partner and advised her to contact his solicitor.
The report stated the handler incorrectly told her the man was safe and well.
On Friday October 13, the man’s body was discovered by a member of the public near Musselburgh Harbour before he was taken to Edinburgh City Mortuary.
Although a distinctive tattoo was noted on his right abdomen, the inquiries made by Police Scotland failed to identify the man at the time.
At around 11am on Saturday October 14, the man’s partner called Police Scotland again to say he had been missing for 48 hours.
The woman said she had contacted the man’s solicitor who confirmed he had not been remanded to prison.
She then said she wanted to report her partner as a vulnerable missing person.
The man’s brother also contacted the police to report his concern and provided a description of the man, which included a distinctive “ninja” tattoo on his stomach.
A concern for person incident was raised and transferred to the area control room, which resulted in the body found near Musselburgh Harbour being identified as that of the man.
A post-mortem examination determined he had died from drowning.
Police Scotland has said it has reviewed its process for dealing with calls about people in custody and has circulated a revised process to service centre staff nationally.
The Pirc report indicates Police Scotland custody staff did not correctly complete the G4S Personal Escort Record form to highlight the man was suicidal or at risk of self-harm before his transfer into the care of G4S Court Custody and Prisoner Escort Services.
It submitted a report to the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service on June 11 last year with a summary of the findings published on Tuesday, with no recommendations made.
Chief Superintendent Mark Hargreaves, of the Professional Standards Department, said: “Police Scotland recognises the findings of the Pirc’s report and can confirm the service has reviewed its process for dealing with calls about people in custody and has circulated a revised process to address this matter.
“Our thoughts remain with the family of the man who tragically died.”
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