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HMA v The Office of the Chief Constable of the Police Service of Scotland

Crown Office statement

The Office of the Chief Constable of the Police Service of Scotland has admitted health and safety failings which led to the death of a 25-year-old woman.

The Office of the Chief Constable pled guilty to a contravention of Sections 3(1) and 33(1)(a) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 on 7 September 2021 at the High Court in Edinburgh and was fined £100,000.

The prosecution follows on from a road traffic incident on the M9 on 5 July 2015 which led to the deaths of John Yuill and Lamara Bell.

The couple were found on 8 July following a 999 call by another member of the public.

John Yuill died at the scene. His injuries were not survivable.

Lamara Bell died on 12 July 2015 at the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital.

Had she been found and treated sooner she would have likely survived.

A 101 call was made to the Police Scotland Contact, Command and Control Centre at Bilston Glen Service Centre by a member of the public on the morning of 5 July reporting that a car had gone off the road and was hidden in trees and bushes on the M9.

The information from the call was not entered into the police systems used to record incidents that require police attendance and no further action was taken.

The Crown’s investigation found that there had been a failure to provide an adequate and reliable call-handling system and ensure that the system was not vulnerable to unacceptable risks due to human error.

There was no system in place that would have been capable of informing and learning from issues and weaknesses or near misses in the call handling system and ensure phone calls from members of the public were recorded appropriately on a Police Scotland IT system.

As a result of these failings Lamara Bell and John Yuill remained unaided and exposed to the elements between 5 July 2015 and 8 July 2015 and this delay contributed to Lamara Bell’s death on 12 July.

Work has begun to initiate a Fatal Accident Inquiry and further information on the process will be made public when possible.

The Lord Advocate, Dorothy Bain QC said:

"With this plea The Office of the Chief Constable of the Police Service of Scotland has accepted liability for contraventions of the Health & Safety at Work etc Act 1974.

"This result is the culmination of a highly complex and thorough investigation carried out by the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service and the Police Investigations & Review Commissioner.

“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. “