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Lack of resources helped delay search for murdered teenager, says IOPC


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'There were simply no officers available', watchdog finds.

Lack of resources helped delay search for murdered teenager, says IOPC

The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) says a lack of resources at Greater Manchester Police helped delay the search for an 18-year-old who was later found murdered.

The watchdog investigated the force over the case of Ellen Higginbottom who was reported missing in June last year, and found dead a few hours later.

Mark Buckley, 51, was jailed for life for her murder last September.

She had died before being reported missing, but delays in dispatching officers to look for her were investigated by the watchdog.

The call reporting her missing at 7pm was graded correctly but the IOPC found that dispatching officers to the incident was delayed 13 times due to a lack of available patrols. All others were all dealing with priority incidents.

The report was escalated once, and there was an attempt to find officers from another division but none were available. Shortly after 11.30pm, following a call to GMP from Ellen’s father requesting an update, officers became available and were dispatched to Ellen’s home to begin searching for her.

The watchdog says radio operators should have escalated the search further and said their performance was unsatisfactory, but found no misconduct could be proved.

IOPC Regional Director for the North West, Amanda Rowe, said: “It is difficult to draw definitive conclusions to this case. There were significant delays in dispatching officers, and clear evidence that there were simply no officers available.

“While we believe there were errors in following force policy, delays may still have been inevitable given the number of high priority incidents that day.”

She added that escalation is still necessary so the public are reassured every effort is being made to find a missing person.

GMP Federation chairman Ian Hanson told Police Oracle: “Against the backdrop of such a tragedy the reality is that police officers and call handlers are every day trying to meet overwhelming demand with minimal resources.

“The government deceives the public by telling them frontline policing has been protected but that quite simply is not true and the reality is people are having to make judgement calls which can turn into life or death decisions. It’s a national scandal.”

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This happens countless times every single day. Many logs will have delay after delay put on them due to lack of available patrols or higher grade calls coming in and taking priority. 

The only thing is this is a bit of a non story really as it actually made no difference to the tragic outcome.

At least it maybe highlights the issues many forces are facing.

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This could be the very worst kind of Monday Morning Quarterbacking.

Unless there was information that this was a high risk missing person then there is unlikely to be any immediate police response at times of high demand.

Prioritising and asking for a patrol from another division was already a reasonable tactic. Going farther afield is unrealistic in the face of the likely call volume.

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I've seen MISPERs go to 48 hours or more purely because if resources. Thankfully I'm not the one making that decision.

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