Strathclyde Police have been told to apologise to a family over the way they handled inquiries into the death of a teenage cyclist.
Sam Beasley, who was 14, died after being hit by a car on the Isle of Arran in 2003.
A complaints panel upheld six complaints against the force, saying it had acted “unreasonably”. A Strathclyde Police spokesman apologised for any distress caused to Sam’s family. The driver of the car, Catherine Munro, who was 60 at the time, was fined and given penalty points. However, Sam’s parents, Joyce and Alan Beasley, accused officers of lying and falsifying evidence in an effort to avoid her being prosecuted.
The report by John McNeill, police complaints commissioner for Scotland, found officers failed to preserve the scene of the accident and allowed Munro to drive off after giving a brief statement. Traffic was allowed to drive past the site and the car was not seized as evidence for several hours. He said: “Whilst Strathclyde Police has clearly acknowledged failings in how the incident was handled, its responses to the applicants were sometimes characterised with partial justifications for the action taken.
“As such, the commissioner has recommended that Strathclyde Police issue a final, unreserved, apology to the applicants for these failings.” Senior officers contested Mr and Mrs Beasley’s claim that police left the scene unattended. But Mr McNeill noted the work of the investigating officer was “undermined by the seemingly grudging nature of the response provided to the applicants”.
The commissioner also said the force should provide a full explanation as to why the car was not kept under cover at Lamlash police station for forensic examination. Senior officers also came under fire for failing to act on inconsistencies in evidence after a transport boss denied a sergeant’s claim that he refused permission to put up witness appeal boards.
Mr Beasley, 57, said he was pleased the commissioner had upheld a number of his complaints and that the tragedy had led to improved training of police in rural areas.
But he insisted issues over the “integrity” of individual officers involved in the case remained.
“We are also concerned that despite Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary for Scotland recommending in 2006 that Strathclyde Police review its policy on the interviewing of suspect drivers in fatal collisions, the force has still not reached a final decision,” he said.
Apology to family
Chief Superintendent John Pollok, head of professional standards at Strathclyde Police, said: “The comments and recommendations contained within the review are currently being considered by the force.
“However, it is accepted that in those areas where the commissioner has concluded that the complaints were not dealt with reasonably, we will ensure our policies, processes and practice are amended so that current and future complaints will be handled appropriately.
“Strathclyde Police apologises for any distress that has been caused to Sam Beasley’s family.”
Ch Supt Pollok said that since the accident significant improvements had been made in the investigation of fatal and serious injury road crashes, including new guidance and training.
He added: “The force readily acknowledges that these improvements will be of little comfort to the family of Sam Beasley, and therefore once we have had the opportunity to consider all the detail of the commissioner’s report, we will communicate with the family directly so that they are aware of the changes that have taken place in light of their experience and the subsequent complaint they have made.”
as recommended that Strathclyde Police issue a final, unreserved, apology to the applicants for these failings.”