March 25, 2023

Police chiefs have told an inquest that budget cuts are to blame after a man committed suicide while waiting for officers who failed to arrive for four hours.

Some of the top officers of the force and the Devon and Cornwall Police and Crime Commissioner gave evidence yesterday at the inquest into the death of Daniel Tilley, 37, from Newquay.

They explained how budget cuts and summer pressure on the province from increased tourist numbers had contributed to a shortage of call handlers and agents on the scene.

Chief Supt Ian Drummond-Smith told on the third day of the four-day inquest that in his 23-year career as a police officer covering East Cornwall and Newquay in particular, the pressure of an increasing number of tourists, mixed with an increase in number of staycations during the Covid pandemic over the past two years has always been an issue faced by agents.

He said cuts by Westminster in emergency services, as well as mental health and social care services, have resulted in fewer officers handling 999 and 101 calls and fewer officers responding.

Chief Supt Ian Drummond-Smith (pictured) said cuts by Westminster in emergency services, as well as mental health and social care services, have resulted in fewer officers handling 999 and 101 calls and fewer officers responding to them

He told the inquest: “The number of officers has increased recently, but summers remain a challenge for us. There is a labor shortage across the country and in Cornwall which means recruiting and retaining more officers, call handlers and dispatchers is challenging.

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“More has been asked of us as a result of budget cuts, while other public services have cut even more than we have. Police officers are often the last resort. That left a gap that police officers sometimes had to fill.’

The judicial inquiry found that 80 percent of all calls to the police are not crime-related.

Earlier, the inquest heard from a police operator that so few officers were available that resources could not be allocated to deal with Daniel – despite his history of mental health issues and being distressed at the time.

As a result, officers were absent from his home address in Newquay for more than four hours after the initial 999 call regarding his welfare was made on 7 July 2019.

The inquest also heard that on the day of Daniels death, police were dealing with an armed incident in Bude involving a man brandishing a gun, an arson-related domestic incident in Bodmin, 12 missing persons, a number of domestic incidents, 14 people in the cells and five high-priority arrest warrants.

Chief Supt Drummond-Smith said that while there has been a recruitment drive across England and Wales for 20,000 police personnel, including 700 in Devon and Cornwall, not all posts have yet been filled.

On the first day of the inquest, Daniel’s friend and neighbor Ryan Beck heard an emergency call for welfare at 2:28 p.m. on the day he died. Daniel was described at the time as drinking heavily and “threatening not only his own life, but others who got in his way.”

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He had attempted an overdose just seven weeks earlier and was admitted to the Royal Cornwall Hospital in Truro as a result.

That day, officers only arrived at the address a few hours after the first emergency number.

It was heard that a crash nearby that day took away some of the resources that day and could have resulted in a delay in Daniel’s attendance. At 6:50 PM, Daniel was found dead, having committed suicide.

Chief Supt Drummond-Smith told the Inquiry that the Newquay area is currently covered by five patrol sergeants and 20 patrol police officers working 24/7 shifts, supported by a neighborhood sergeant and two neighborhood PCs. However, that number was less in 2019 at the time of Daniel’s death.

Assistant chief const. Nikki Leaper said the Corps would get a net 600 new officers by the end of the financial year, along with three new pieces of software that should make it easier and less stressful for call handlers, dispatchers and ground officers to do their jobs. and respond faster to incidents.

However, recruits must undergo rigorous nine-month training before they can become a police officer and another two to three years in the field before they are fully qualified.

“A shortage of resources is a problem for us,” she told the inquest. ‘Cornwall is a great place to live and since Covid the number of staycations has increased, increasing the challenges we face. I don’t have a magic wand to budget for the increased demand in the summer months.’

In October, Devon and Cornwall Police were given special measures by the Police Inspectorate, including inadequate response times, poor record keeping of crimes – particularly against vulnerable victims and violent or behavioral offenses – and an inability to deal with sexual and violent offenders.

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Police and Crime Commissioner Alison Hernandez acknowledged the difficulties facing the force and said she had asked the government for additional funding and increased the council’s tax bill since she was first elected in 2016 to try to have more money to to get more boots on the ground.

She told the inquest: ‘I have been trying for several years to change the funding formula for Devon and Cornwall to take account of scarcity and seasonality.

“Unfortunately, policing has only been a small part of the Leveling Up agenda and while police forces can call on each other for what is known as ‘mutual aid’ to cover events such as the G7 summit, this is not used for business as usual, which is summer pressure is to be seen as.

“I made an offer for a special grant to the Ministry of the Interior to help us deal with seasonality, but it was not accepted, even though it is a serious problem for us.”

The judicial inquiry will be concluded today.

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