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back to article Phone-blab plod breaks PRIVACY law after crash victim's 5hr ditch ordeal

A Norfolk police official broke a privacy law after blurting out "sensitive information" to the relative of a 54-year-old bloke – who had been seriously hurt in a car crash and left unnoticed in a ditch for five hours. The Independent Police Complaints Commission today said that one of the force's control room operators had …

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Silver badge

"the ditch was not easily visible and the immediate area was covered in dense vegetation"

Police dog ?

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Sadly it's all too common for drivers to stuff their cars in hedges at night and get a mate to pick them up with the intention of recovering the car in the morning. Unfortunately they don't tell the police, so when another motorist reports the vehicle the police then have to spend time trying to find the driver and any passengers who might have been injured, but collapsed after leaving the scene . This should include a search of the area (in the middle of the countryside, this could potentially be miles away) and trying the address of the registered keeper (who half the time sold the car 6 months ago), but nearly every time the driver will be at his mates house or having a pint in the pub to calm down.

Of course, on this occasion the initial search wasn't good enough, but it's worth putting a bit of context to it. In flat counties like Norfolk where you have vast rural areas with ditches at the side of the road, this sort of accident happens several times a night and - rightly or wrongly - it's just not practical to call out the dogs, helicopters, search teams etc every time a driver's unaccounted for.

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Silver badge

Have to agree, about once a month by us, some townie goes flying off a corner, and ends up some way from the exit point. Indeed about 6 months ago, there was a similar incident where the drive was not found for several hours because they had gone off the road flown threw the air, done a hundered metres across a ploughed field and into a ditch, but because of the weather, and the lack of visibility, there was no sign of the car, so it was presumed a car had hit the fence, then simply backed up and drove off.

I wasn't until the light of day and some horse riders with a higher vantage point, was the car discovered. The driver was ok(ish) but it does highlight how this can happen.

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and here's another one, from 3 weeks ago. The driver was trapped in his inverted car, in a water filled ditch. He was spotted by a lorry driver (high view point) 14 hours later.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-kent-23697669

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-kent-23908252

IIRC a driver in the US was trapped in her car for several days after it went down a wooded hill side; she was only rescued after tourists (probably paying more attention to the view than the locals) spotted the hole in the woods.

However, there is a difference between not spotting a car that has crashed to somewhere out-of-sight (you need to spot the damaged hedge etc) , and not finding the driver of a visible crashed car.

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@NightFox

"... it's just not practical to call out the dogs, helicopters, search teams etc every time a driver's unaccounted for."

So maybe it is time for the police in these areas to have genuinely useful tech that provides a service to the public, such as infra-red cameras?

Oh, silly me: police tech is all about controlling the population, not helping them.

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Re: @NightFox

An infra-red camera to keep an eye on the perps at night would probably be useful for the police. They use them on the helicopters for tracking suspects on the run, so having a few for ground-level stuff might also help. Then they'd also be available in situations such as this one.

However, if the driver was in a ditch under bushes then it's quite possible that even the IR camera would have failed to see him.

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Bronze badge
FAIL

well as he/she is being disciplined

it was probably information that brought the force into disrepute - the truth about their search?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: well as he/she is being disciplined

Families are not automatically entitled to all information about other members of their family.

As an example, I have an illness that I am restricting the information my family gets. It isn't because my illness is deadly or contagious it is because my family can be overwhelming in their concern and I don’t want the attention. If I was in an accident and the police (or hospital) revealed details of my illness to my family I would be very pissed off about it.

The information released must have been personal information about the crash victim. Here are two examples of mistakes the operator could have made to put them in breach:

"Has he turned up at home because our records indicate he has previously left the scene of an accident?"

or

"Has he taken his medication because his medial records indicate he is suffering from ...."

Either of the above would be a breach. What would not be a breach is information regarding the police's action.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: well as he/she is being disciplined

Or information about the members of the public who found/reported the injured person.

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This post has been deleted by its author

Telling the truth is now a crime, it hinders their ability to whitewash mistakes.

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Anonymous Coward

Revealing information you are not allowed to reveal is a crime.

The police would have had information regarding the victims past behaviour and associations and details of any medical conditions. Revealing any of this to relatives would be a breach.

Revealing any information regarding any incompetence on the police's part would not be a breach.

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I would guess it was something along the lines of having previous for drink/drive or similar.

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This post has been deleted by its author

Appropriate punishment

This operator received appropriate punishment for violating the "Don't make your bosses look bad" regulation... :-(

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Bronze badge

From the article:

"Officers turned up to the accident spot on the morning of 8 July but, after a thorough search, could not find the severely injured driver."

To me, this sounds like the accident had been reported, possibly by the driver himself. Failing to find a crashed vehicle after it has been specifically reported seems a very different thing to finding an abandoned car, or the tracks of a vehicle that has already been recovered. There may be very many reasons, but I don't think there can be any excuse for leaving a man to die (very nearly).

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Bronze badge

They found the vehicle, determined the owner lived nearby so conducted a quick search around the vehicle before going to the owners home. They got no answer so went back to the vehicle and conducted a more thorough search but still failed to find the driver.

They found the car, the problem was that the ditch was hidden by dense vegetation and, like a previous commentator said, it is not uncommon for drivers of crashed vehicles to leave the scene.

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Bronze badge

Exactly. And that is what I would do if it happened to me and lived nearby.

There would be no point in calling a garage as they'd be all shut. The car is off the road, the road users are safe, I'm safe so I may as well go home and sort it out in the morning.

What is the point of hanging around just on the off chance that plod motors by? And for what purpose? I'd think that I would need a few stiff gills in the comfort of my own cottage if I were able.

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Silver badge

Doesn't hurt

To leave a note on the steering wheel.

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