Lamara Bell died in hospital after lying undiscovered for three days
By Lucy Ashton
The family of a young mother who died after lying undiscovered in a car for days following a crash on the M9 has been awarded more than £1m in damages from Police Scotland.
Lamara Bell and her partner John Yuill both died after their car left the motorway near Stirling on July 5, 2015.
Despite a call being made to police, it took three days for the force to respond and when officers finally arrived at the scene, Yuill was found to be dead while Bell died four days later in hospital.
Her family have now agreed a civil settlement with Police Scotland and will receive more than £1m.
In a statement, the Bell family said: “Imagine chasing answers, recognition and justice for six years and all you get is silence then in the space of three months you get a conviction and a civil settlement – it is fair say our thoughts and feelings are all over the place right now.
“Our pain and loss won’t stop just because the legal proceedings are over but there is at least a sense of peace that comes with their conclusion.
“But that peace is fleeting because ultimately we are still without Lamara.
“We are without a daughter and sister and her children are without a mother – such an outcome cannot, and should not ever, go unheeded in a fair society and we are glad to finally have attained that which we sought.
Police Scotland was fined £100,000 earlier this year after admitting failings which “materially contributed” to the deaths of Bell and Yuill.
The High Court in Edinburgh heard in September that Bell would probably have survived had she had been found sooner.
Delivering the sentence, Lord Beckett said: “This case arose from terrible events in which two relatively young people died, one of them after days of severe physical suffering when she must have been in an almost unimaginable state of anxiety.
“As days and hours went by she must have been in a state of disbelief that no help arose.”
Lord Beckett said it was “unprecedented” for the police service of Scotland to have been accused and convicted in the High Court.
The office of the Chief Constable of Police Scotland admitted it failed to ensure that people, including Yuill and Bell, were not exposed to risks to their health and safety by failing to provide an “adequate and reliable call-handling system” between April 1 2013 and March 1 2016.
The force admitted that as a result, members of the public were exposed to risks to their health and safety and, in particular, on July 5, 2015, a police officer at the force call-handling centre at Bilston Glen Service Centre failed to record a phone call from a member of the public reporting that a vehicle was at the bottom of an embankment at the side of the eastbound junction nine slip road from the M80 on to the M9.
The phone call was not recorded on any Police Scotland IT system and no action was taken.
The force admitted Bell and Yuill remained “unaided and exposed to the elements” in the car between July 5 and 8, 2015, and that the failings “materially contributed” to Bell’s death on July 12 that year at the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow.
The force pleaded guilty to breaching the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.
David Nellaney, Partner at Digby Brown, added: “The Bell family has endured things very few people could ever comprehend but the patience, resilience and compassion they have shown at all times cannot be understated.
“It is unfortunate Police Scotland did not admit its failings sooner as it might have spared them unnecessary distress but at least we do now have a conclusion and the Bells can rightly focus on themselves and times ahead.”