IPCC publishes findings from investigation into Cleveland Police response to calls relating to kidnap
An Independent Police Complaints Commission investigation into how Cleveland Police dealt with calls relating to a kidnap has found it unlikely that a different response would have prevented the man's death.
However the investigation did find some errors in the way the calls were handled.
John Newton, was murdered by a group of men who abducted him from his home in Redcar on 19 March 2011. George Thomas Jr, 52, Stephen Thomas, 30, and Andrew Jackson, 25 were found guilty of murder and kidnap in September 2011. Lee Woodier was found guilty of manslaughter and kidnap following a retrial in January 2012.
Cleveland Police were contacted on four occasions on the evening of 19 March by a friend of Mr Newton's expressing concerns for his welfare. The calls were made at 8.06pm, 8.20pm, 8.28pm and 8.55pm. Police officers arrived at John Newton's address at 9.14pm.
At 9.45pm officers stopped a yellow van and Mr Newton was found inside. He had multiple injuries from which he died subsequently.
The Cleveland Police investigation into Mr Newton's murder found that he had been abducted at around 5.30pm.
The first call at 8.06pm came via the non-emergency telephone number. In it the caller reported his concerns about Mr Newton and explained how a yellow van containing men that had previously threatened Mr Newton with a gun had turned up at the flat. The caller explained how he had fled, but Mr Newton had not followed.
This call was handled by a Police Constable and she graded the call as a Priority 1, requiring a response within one hour. The call handler advised officers would be sent straight away.
The second call was handled by a second police constable while the final two calls were handled by an employee of Steria, a private company contracted to provide call handling services for the force. While employees of private companies do not fall under the remit of private companies the IPCC came to an agreement with Steria to ensure cooperation of its staff.
The IPCC investigation found that while Cleveland Police failed to respond to the incident within the one hour timeframe for a Priority 1 grading, it is evident the kidnap of Mr Newton had occurred more than two hours before the first call. It was concluded that even had the police responded quicker neither Mr Newton nor his kidnappers were likely to have been at the property.
The investigation did conclude however that key information such as the time of the incident, description of Mr Newton and information about the occupants of the van, was not taken in the initial calls handled by the police constables. It was not until the final call that this information was recorded.
In addition, in the first call there was mention of a previous firearms incident, but this was not flagged to a supervisor for consideration of whether the incident might warrant deployment of armed officers. The subsequent call handlers assumed this would have happened.
Only the police constables fall under the remit of the Police Conduct Regulations. One officer retired during the investigation while it was concluded the actions of the other did not warrant disciplinary action.
IPCC Commissioner Nicholas Long said: "Mr Newton was brutally murdered and his assailants have been caught and convicted. The IPCC's remit was to establish whether Cleveland Police could have prevented the murder by responding in a more timely fashion. Although the response did not meet the force targets in terms of timescales it is apparent the first call expressing concern was more than two hours after the incident. This makes it highly unlikely that anything could have been done to prevent the murder.
"What is apparent is that the calls were not handled as well as they should have been and important information was collated in a piecemeal fashion. Lessons need to be learned from that.”
Mr Long added: "This was a complicated investigation for the IPCC due to the involvement of a private company, Steria. While the company did enter into an agreement and provide its cooperation the IPCC believes the contracting out of services by police forces should not mean people who perform police-like functions are excluded from our investigations. Any extension of the IPCC's remit to cover contracted staff would require a change in legislation and we have discussed this with the Home Office.”
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