Police criticised over handling of call after evicted man ‘froze to death’
PUBLISHED: 17:06 30 January 2019 | UPDATED: 17:06 30 January 2019
The family of a man who died outside the home he had been evicted from has finally got some answers – more than a year after his death.
Police have been criticised for their handling of a 999 call which raised concerns about Anthony Barnard, who reportedly froze to death outside his former home on Priors Close in Lowestoft.
Concerns about Mr Barnard’s welfare had been raised by a neighbour who contacted Suffolk Constabulary on December 27, 2017. Mr Barnard’s body was found the next day.
An investigation has found that the call “was not handled perfectly”.
Mr Barnard, 57, had been made bankrupt and evicted from the house three months earlier.
On December 27 a neighbour contacted social services when they saw Mr Barnard outside the house “wearing unsuitable clothing for the bad weather conditions.”
They passed the report on to police who contacted the ambulance service.
However paramedics did not respond as Mr Barnard had no apparent medical issues and there was other high demand. Police did not attend either.
A neighbour then phoned 999 the next morning, around 16 hours after the first call, saying Mr Barnard was face down in the garden. Police and paramedics attended and confirmed the man was dead.
The Suffolk Constabulary worker who took the initial call resigned immediately after the incident in December 2017.
A second call handler, who was acting as supervisor, was investigated by the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC).
In its official report, the IOPC said: “The second call taker was served with a notice informing him his conduct was under investigation regarding the allegations that he may not have conducted the appropriate checks and risk assessments, and may not have gathered sufficient information to enable a decision to be reached regarding police and/or ambulance attendance.”
The IOPC report added “although the evidence seems to suggest that the call was not handled perfectly, the actions of the second call taker would not amount to misconduct”.
It added the the second call taker had accepted “things could have been handled better” but no guidance had been breached.
With Suffolk Constabulary accepting the findings, a police spokesman said: “Suffolk Constabulary referred the circumstances surrounding Mr Barnard’s death to the IOPC who subsequently conducted an independent investigation.
“The IOPC found there were no grounds for disciplinary action in relation to Suffolk Constabulary employees in this case.
“The Constabulary does appreciate that the loss of Mr Barnard, and the circumstances surrounding his death, have led to the last year being a particularly difficult time for his family.
“Suffolk Constabulary always strives to do all it can to help people in need. Therefore, to assist our call handlers new guidance has been implemented about how to handle concerns for welfare calls.”
Response to concern for welfare reports - Suffolk Constabulary, December 2017
The IOPC report said: “On December 27, 2017, a member of the public contacted Suffolk Constabulary to report concerns for the welfare of a man.
“The caller stated they could see the man sitting in the rear garden of an address in Lowestoft, wearing unsuitable clothing for the bad weather conditions.
“The police call taker requested an ambulance. However, the ambulance service said they would not be sending a response due to other high demand. Police did not attend.
“The next day, another member of the public contacted police to report their concerns for the same man, saying he was face-down in the garden, where he had been since the previous day. Police and paramedics attended and confirmed the man was dead.
“Investigators obtained accounts from two call takers involved in handling the call relating to the man on December 27.
“The first call taker was dealing with the call and the second call taker was listening and providing advice. The first call taker resigned in December 2017 and the second was served with a notice informing him his conduct was under investigation regarding the allegations that he may not have conducted the appropriate checks and risk assessments, and may not have gathered sufficient information to enable a decision to be reached regarding police and/or ambulance attendance.
“Investigators reviewed a body of evidence including the calls to police and ambulance, police records of the calls, and relevant policies and procedures.
“Suffolk Constabulary’s control room trainer was also consulted regarding his opinion on the handling of the call to police on December 27.
“At the end of the investigation we were of the opinion that a reasonable tribunal, properly directed could, on the balance of probabilities, consider that, although the evidence seems to suggest that the call was not handled perfectly, the actions of the second call taker would not amount to misconduct.
“No guidance was breached, and the second call taker accepted that things could have been handled better.
“After reviewing our report Suffolk Constabulary agreed.”