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Police 'could have prevented' attack on homeless man

A man was scarred for life in a series of attacks after refusing to take part in a rape of a woman.

Report: Police Scotland failed to respond to first 999 call.
Report: Police Scotland failed to respond to first 999 call. Police Scotland quality generic 2019

Police could have prevented an assault that left a homeless man scarred for life if they had responded to an initial 999 call, a police watchdog has found.

A woman was also nearly raped at the property before officers arrived at the scene almost two hours after the alarm was first raised.

The victim was seriously assaulted by his attacker at homeless accommodation in Penicuik, Midlothian, on three occasions between 2am and 3.02am on September 3 2018.

He was first targeted after he refused to join in with another resident who had asked him to take part in the rape of a woman.

He rang Police Scotland on 999 at 2am and 2.21am to report the first two assaults and was unconscious by the time the first officer arrived at 3.43am.

An investigation by the Police Investigations and Review Commissioner (PIRC) found the controller at Bilston Area Control Room (ACR) failed to prioritise the incident and sent officers to lower priority incidents.

'It is highly likely that had the ACR controller directed officers to attend the initial reported assaults then the later assault on the man would not have occurred.'
PIRC report

The report stated: "It is highly likely that had the ACR controller directed officers to attend the initial reported assaults then the later assault on the man would not have occurred."

At 2am, the injured man rang Police Scotland on 999, stating he had been assaulted, was injured, needed medical attention and the person responsible was still there.

He dialled 999 again at 2.21am to report he had been assaulted again by the same man had a number of head injuries and was bleeding heavily. He was assaulted by the man for a third time at 3.02am.

At 3.24am, details of the incidents were brought to the attention of the local police sergeant who arrived at the scene at 3.43am, supported a short time later by other police officers.

They found the injured man unconscious and with severe injuries, including facial injuries that required reconstructive surgery.

'No thought appears to have been given by the Bilston ACR controller to redeploying local officers or tasking resources in adjoining areas or in other business areas to attend the calls.'
PIRC report

The PIRC report found that sometime, probably between the second assault and the third assault, the attacker forced entry to the woman's locked room and tried to rape her.

She resisted and managed to fight him off. Police found her in her room at 4.14am when she reported the attempted rape to them.

The report said: "During the course of these incidents, police officers in the area were directed to attend lower priority calls by Bilston ACR.

"No thought appears to have been given by the Bilston ACR controller to redeploying local officers or tasking resources in adjoining areas or in other business areas to attend the calls."

It added: "Overall, the ACR controller failed to prioritise this incident, control and direct resources appropriately."

Investigators could not determine whether officers could have arrived in time to prevent the attempted rape if they had been sent to attend the initial reports of serious assault by the man.

The man who carried out the assault was arrested and later stood trial at the High Court in Edinburgh, where he was found guilty of assault to severe injury and permanent disfigurement and assault with attempt to rape on December 18 2018.

He was detained in a state hospital for treatment for a mental health condition.

'We accept the commissioner's findings and I am sorry that we did not meet those high standards on this occasion.'
Assistant chief constable John Hawkins

The report found ACR managers failed to notify PIRC and senior Police Scotland managers about the serious incident in accordance with procedure.

It concluded the failings identified were individual and not organisational, and said a number of measures have since been put in place by Police Scotland to improve the management of calls based on an assessment of threat, risk and harm.

Assistant chief constable John Hawkins said: "Our officers and staff work with commitment and professionalism day in, day out to provide a high quality policing 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 had on the people involved.

"We have already identified and addressed a number of the concerns highlighted in this report and will reflect on the PIRC's findings to see if we can do more to improve how we serve the public."

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