Motoring accidents make up more than half police compensation payouts

Police Scotland handed out £350,000 over three years as compensation for road accidents involving officers, a BBC investigation has found.

Since 2013, payouts have been made for a range of incidents, including where police vehicles hit a pedestrian, cyclists, parked cars, and walls.

Motor liability claims accounted for more than half of the total £633,035.

Police Scotland said its police vehicles did 70 million miles each year in often dangerous conditions.

As well as motoring offences, payouts were also made for unlawful strip-searches and detentions.

The data was obtained through a BBC Scotland freedom of information request – made seven months ago – to Police Scotland.

The force collates motor, public and employer’s liability claims into individual annual spreadsheets for each of the force’s three command areas.

The release of the data comes in the wake of reports that cash-strapped Police Scotland is facing a “six figure” compensation bid over last year’s M9 car crash which left two dead after a 101 call was mishandled.

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The FOI data set showed that Police Scotland paid out £358,159 – or 57% of all the 217 successful compensation payments – on motor-related claims.

The three command areas showed varying claims:

Western area – since 2013, successful motor claims accounted for 75% of all payouts in this area, formerly made up of the Strathclyde and Dumfries and Galloway police divisions

Eastern area – one £6,700 payout was made in this area involving a passenger who was injured when a bus driver was forced to brake suddenly to avoid a police car

Northern area – there were no liability payouts made in this area

The compensation data reveals payments were made when a police vehicle hit a cyclist (£35,612), a pedestrian (£5,582), a wall (£930), and a parked car (£1,119).

Payouts were also made where one police vehicle ran a red light causing a collision (£1,609), and another rolled into a third party vehicle (£5,237).

One member of the public was compensated £221 when a police horse damaged their car wing mirror.

Patrick McGuire, a partner with Thompson Solicitors Scotland, said revelations that 57% of the compensation payouts were motor-related, was “shocking, but not surprising”.

He said: “We expect our police officers to be highly trained in driving, and we hold them to, and expect, a very high standard of care from them.

“But in my professional experience I have seen many claims over the years involving collisions.”

A Police Scotland spokesman said: “We have more than 3,500 vehicles which cover more than 70 million miles a year in all conditions and many of these are in high risk circumstances as our officers do their job in keeping people safe.

“All drivers have to pass a police driving test in addition to holding a full driving licence before being allowed to drive a police vehicle and all new vehicles coming on to our fleet have the highest safety ratings which includes being fitted with reversing sensors, anti-skid and electronic stability control systems.”

‘I’m disgusted’

But Mr McGuire said, despite their frequency, successfully pursuing such motor claims against Police Scotland was another matter entirely.

The police’s own data reveals that only 40% of all 549 closed claims since 2013 resulted in a payout.

In Bo’ness, Leona Ryce’s vehicle was hit at a junction by a speeding police car responding to a call – but which allegedly had not yet turned on its lights or siren.

That was four years ago, and Ms Ryce has yet to receive any compensation for the incident.

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She said: “I had internal bleeding in my knee, I had cracked ribs, and I suffered from a few panic attacks after the crash.”

Ms Ryce was charged with driving without consideration but successfully challenged the charge in court.

She added: “I thought right from the start they [Police Scotland] would have accepted liability, to be honest.

“I’m disgusted about the way they have been about the whole thing.”

Police Scotland said it would not comment on an ongoing legal case.

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Mr McGuire, who is now overseeing Ms Ryce’s case, said this was indicative of how Police Scotland dealt with motor-related claims.

He said: “The evidence we have from non-police eyewitnesses is very strong and they [Police Scotland] are relying entirely on the police officers and believing their statements entirely.

“They [Police Scotland] are overly-blinkered and dangerously protective of the serving officers to the extent that they seem unwilling to look to the other possibilities and to recognise fairly compelling evidence that the officer got it wrong, and therefore to do the right and appropriate thing and ensure the victim is fairly compensated.

“They should hold their officers to the highest standard, and when they get it wrong they have to know that they won’t get away with that.

“Certain officers, despite their degree of training, think that they are above the law, that certain rules don’t apply to them.”

A Police Scotland spokesman denied claims of favouring officer testimony, stating that “all claims are assessed in line with an agreed process”.


Digging deeper into the claims data

While the majority of payouts were motor-related, the remainder were largely public liability claims. Here are details on a small number of these claims that resulted in a Police Scotland payout:


The £633,035 paid out by Police Scotland is dwarfed by similar payments made by the London Metropolitan Police, which in 2010-11, paid out £1.8m for 205 claims.

It was reported last year that Police Scotland had ‘ring-fenced’ £1.4m for employer liability claims – but the police force refused to acknowledge what portion of their £1bn budget was set aside for motor and public liability claims.

However, Police Scotland’s 2014/15 budget reported an actuarial valuation of £5,3m.

All compensation payouts rose by 270% between 2013 and 2014 to £420,167, before falling to £99,271 in 2015.

But in Scotland actions for personal injury claims can be submitted up to three years after gaining knowledge of the injury – meaning claims for 2015 incidents can be submitted up until 2018.