999 delay in Sidmouth branded ‘unacceptable’


- Credit: Archant

Delays in answering a 999 call have been branded ‘unacceptable’ by a town councillor.

Councillor John Rayson described how, for the first time in his life, he was forced to call the emergency number after a pedestrian was injured by a car in Temple Street last month.

He said he dialled 999 and first got a recorded message stating the line was ‘experiencing a high volume of calls’, before he was eventually put through to a Plymouth police call centre and then the Dorset force line, when that was busy also.

“I would have thought it was acceptable if it was the gas board, but for a 999 call, it could have been quite serious… It was not satisfactory at all,” Cllr Rayson told this month’s Sidmouth Town Council meeting.

Cllr Rayson claimed someone also banged on the door of Sidmouth Police Station, but to no avail.

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He said that, after 25 minutes, a police constable from Exeter arrived. A police community support officer was on the scene before this.

Sergeant Andry Squires told the meeting that the 999 systems was dependant on how many call handlers there were.

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He added that the phones were always staffed, but if they were having a high volume of calls, then calls would be patched through to Plymouth, then the nearest call handling centre and, failing that, Dorset.

“It is much better that it is answered by somebody than to have you left hanging on the line,” saig Sgt Squires.

“I would like to think all 999 calls were answered very promptly.”

He added that the issue with officers’ availability was an age-old problem which was to do with how thinly spread they were.

Sgt Squires said the force’s target was to reach a scene, after an initial call, within nine minutes in an urban area and within 20 minutes somewhere rural.

He added that residents would get the nearest available officers - and sometimes that was someone from Exeter.

Sgt Squires said that, if people felt more officers were needed, they should write to the Police and Crime Commissioner.

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