Damaged door repairs cost police £364k in five years

POLICE have shelled out £364,000 to pay for securing damaged doors in the Lothians during the last five years, including payouts for raiding the wrong address six times since the start of last year.

By ALAN MCEWEN Crime Reporter
Tuesday, 22nd May 2012, 1:00 pm

Officers are often called upon to force open doors during drug raids, while executing warrants, or to check on the welfare of residents where there is concern about their health.

But three times during 2011 and another three times so far this year, officers broke down the wrong door and had to pay a total of £844 to fix them.

A joiner, who was previously employed as a contractor to secure doors for the police, said he had seen residents “go mental” when officers targeted the wrong home.

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Police chiefs said errors happened on “very rare occasions” and the force would apologise and fund repairs.

The force outsources the repairs to Norfolk-based Boing Rapid Secure Ltd, which has a list of approved tradesmen to carry out work.

Doors are also secured on properties where a crime has been committed in order to preserve evidence, or when a home has been broken into.

During drug raids in Dalry and Wester Hailes last Wednesday, joiners were on hand to secure properties.

A joiner, who asked not to be named, said: “The reason I stopped doing it was I felt we weren’t getting back-up from police. The police raided a lot of doors and afterwards we would get told, ‘send an invoice to that drug dealer or whoever’. There was no way I was sending out an invoice for £200 to people like that who just had their doors kicked in.”

He added: “I was on jobs a number of times where the wrong door was kicked in. The owners would often go mental. They would have an address on a warrant but the process of getting it took days and by that time the person had moved, or the police would raid their cousin’s house and be told they hadn’t been living there for weeks.”

Scottish Labour justice spokesman Lewis Macdonald said: “The police should always ensure they have the correct address, but that is not going to be possible in 100 per cent of cases.”

In Edinburgh alone, police had to pay out £276,742 to secure properties between January 2007 and last month.

Police are also liable for the damages cost of raiding a home if no evidence is found.

A police spokeswoman said: “Police have a duty to protect insecure premises and if the owner cannot be promptly traced, the police will take reasonable steps to make them secure.

“While Boing make every effort to recover the costs from the owner of the property, sometimes it is not possible to do so and Lothian and Borders Police is liable.

“On the very rare occasions that Lothian and Borders Police forces a door in error, it apologises and pays the repair costs.”

A Boing spokesman said: “Around 15 per cent of people liable for repair costs refuse to pay. We make up the vast majority of these costs to ensure they are not passed to the taxpayer.”