Call for review of hoax call system after woman's murder

Police control room generic Image copyright PA

A system aimed at tackling hoax 999 calls should be reviewed after a woman was murdered by her violent ex-boyfriend, the police complaints body has said.

Mother-of-one Kerry Power, 36, was killed by David Wilder, 44, in Plymouth, Devon, in 2013.

Shortly before her death she dialled 999, but did not speak and so the call was not passed on to the police.

Devon and Cornwall Police said it was sorry "for any failures".

The so-called "silent solution" system is designed to deal with 999 calls that are either hoaxes or made accidentally.

However, the investigation by the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) found Miss Power may have been advised by a police officer that if she were to make an emergency call from her mobile phone - but did not speak - emergency assistance could still be despatched.

Miss Power first called police on 28 November 2013 with concerns about damage to her car.

Eight days later she complained that Wilder was stalking her, and she was visited by police the following day.

A week later, on 14 December 2013, Wilder broke into her home and strangled her.

Her 10-year-old son, who was sleeping upstairs, found her body.

Wilder admitted murder and was jailed for life.

The IPCC has now made national recommendations to ensure there is better accountability for the system and that its effectiveness is reviewed.

'Tragic consequences'

Deputy Chief Constable Alan Todd, the National Police Chiefs' Council's lead for national contact management, said: "Our steering group has reviewed the system and concluded that it is effective at enabling people who are unable to speak to contact the police while filtering out the huge volumes of accidental 999 calls made every day.

But he said the investigation into the handling of the Kerry Power murder "demonstrates the tragic consequences of people not knowing how the system works".

The investigation also concluded that at the time of Miss Power's murder, police had not fully implemented guidance on dealing with allegations of stalking.

IPCC associate commissioner Tom Milsom said: "Our investigation found that opportunities to identify the risk that David Wilder posed to her were not fully recognised by Devon and Cornwall Police."

Sharon Taylor, assistant chief constable of Devon and Cornwall Police, said: "We are sorry for any failures on our part at that time.

"As for the national 'silent solution' system, the force has a policy that gives staff clear guidance about how the system works and how to deal with a silent 999 call."

The IPCC also considered that the performance of two call handlers, a sergeant, an inspector and a detective superintendent may have fallen short of the standard expected. They will be dealt with by way of performance procedures.

The IPCC said a PCSO and two police officers had a case to answer for misconduct. One has since retired and will face no further action and the others are to be dealt with by way of performance procedures.

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