Missing man’s death could not be prevented - report

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The death of a man who was reported missing from a hospital in Wyke could not have been prevented by police responding to a missing person report, the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) has found.

The independent IPCC investigation examined West Yorkshire Police’s response to the report Peter Barnes was missing from Cygnet Hospital, on Bradford Road, on October 13, 2011.

The investigation looked at risk assessments which were conducted and the actions taken by officers from West Yorkshire Police.

Mr Barnes, from Lincoln, was reported missing by Cygnet Hospital on October 13 2011 and assessed as a low-risk missing person.

The actions taken by West Yorkshire Police to locate Mr Barnes included asking Lincolnshire Police to check a number of addresses connected to him, circulating a photograph and description, and issuing a nationwide alert to other police forces.

Searches of the hospital grounds were also conducted by hospital staff and West Yorkshire Police officers. Mr Barnes’ body was discovered in the grounds of Cygnet Hospital on October 20 2011.

The IPCC investigation found there was no case to answer for any officer and there was no evidence to suggest that had the police acted differently in any way, the death of Mr Barnes could have been prevented.

The investigation which concluded in March 2012 did, however, reveal a number of areas of learning for individuals and West Yorkshire Police.

These included a recommendation that West Yorkshire Police highlight to its Duty Inspectors the importance and value of maintaining regular contact with the family of a missing person, and to consider developing a clear protocol to ensure provisions are in place if missing person coordinators are unavailable.

West Yorkshire Police has told the IPCC that since Mr Barnes’ death the force has increased the level of intrusive management applied to each missing person’s case at daily meetings.

A guidance document has also been prepared to inform and assist supervisors in dealing with reports of missing persons.

Cindy Butts, the IPCC Commissioner for West Yorkshire, said: “The death of Mr Barnes caused a great deal of distress for members of his family, and I would like to offer my sincerest condolences to them.

“While our investigation did not find that any actions of West Yorkshire Police officers or staff contributed to Mr Barnes’ death, we have made a number of recommendations to the force so that its guidance for dealing with reports of missing persons can be improved.”

At an inquest that ended in November 2013 a jury ruled that Mr Barnes took his own life while the balance of his mind was disturbed.