It wasn’t just his injuries and the pain he endured that made March and April so dark, it was the fact that WM Police didn’t attend the accident, didn’t listen to me when I tried to explain the extent of his injuries and didn’t understand that the justice we sought was about acknowledging how wrong they were in not attending, admitting they were wrong and was nothing whatsoever about prosecution or an insurance claim.
We were both grateful that so many wonderful people rallied to Aiden’s cause. It’s worth mentioning once again that people such as Brownhills Bob and The Plastic Hippo penned powerful and far reaching blogs, various cycling forums, magazines, writers became interested in what had happened and BBC Radio WM in the form of Adrian Goldberg’s programme got interested and stayed interested enough to follow Aiden’s story plus there was Councillor Imran Azam and so many other individuals that I’m not sure would want the publicity!
All the help and support was a wonderful thing to behold and it helped us so very much but I cannot pretend that the period was anything but awful and the strain of constantly having to chase up the Police and then when a final result to the lacklustre investigation was imparted to feel so sickened and let down and wondering if justice was unobtainable, did take it’s toll. I’m sure that had everything been handled correctly from the word go, Aiden’s mental recovery would have kicked in a lot earlier than it did.
I think it’s fair to say that I’ve worried and maybe even intimidated a few coppers along this journey. I’m not sorry for that because the uppermost thought in my mind was justice for Aiden.
Once the complaint, made in two forms; firstly on the policy of attendance at RTCs and secondly regarding the incompetence we had encountered from moment the 999 call was made, had been submitted to the Chief Constable we were fortunate that Inspector Paul Dutton, took ownership of events and ensured that justice did indeed finally prevail. It’s been quite humbling to be in his company and to witness his energy, enthusiasm, dedication and sheer love of his job. He investigated what had happened from start to finish (including his own less than helpful role two days after the accident) and made strenuous efforts to research the policy that WM Police work under and to understand that it was not fit for purpose and to contact other officers that could possibly influence a change and he visited Aiden and me in our home a couple of times, arranged for us to visit the Operations Room where the call concerning Aiden was routed, explained the set up, the roles and allowed us to observe a complex and incredibly stressful environment and then led a session on a training day for his team about the lessons that could be learned from our experiences and invited us to attend so that we could observe and witness just how seriously we had been taken.
The whole experience with WM Police was a little like going from the ridiculous to the sublime. True, if events had been dealt with properly from the start then there would have been no need for a complaint and for all the angst that went with it but I have to applaud them for recognising their shortcomings both in terms of policy and service and having the guts to hold their hands up and admit they were wrong, apologise and to then take affirmative action not to put things right because it was far too late for that but to attempt to ensure that this sort of incident doesn’t happen again and to take a serious look at the policy in question.
When we attended the training session at Aston the contrasts of police work were brought home to me. We sat and watched and listened (unidentified until quite late on in the session) to a group of officers discuss what had gone wrong with Aiden’s case (plus one other case) and we saw their facial expressions and heard the gasps when they saw a photograph of his injuries. Their reactions were genuine and it was clear that there was regret that a member of the public had suffered such bad service on their watch. I realised that I was in the company of a group of people who did take pride in their job and did want to provide a good service to ordinary people like me and Aiden. At the same time I was very aware that right next door to us was the practice theatre for firearms and in front of us on the floor were piles of protective clothing. What came to me was that sometimes these officers I was sitting amongst, put their lives on the line for the safety and protection of everyone. Another humbling moment.
I am not so naive as to believe that every cop is a good cop and that the Police will not continue to make mistakes however, if lessons are learned and they are willing to learn from those mistakes as was our experience, then my faith that the vast majority of coppers are hard working decent men and women who enjoy their job, want to serve well and do their personal best, is restored.
We are led to understand that the policy regarding attendance at RTCs involving cyclists and pedestrians is to change for the better although we have no final word on that at present but at least the wheels are grinding away in the background and our experience will have had a very positive outcome.
Aiden returned to work last week. It's been a long road to a recovery that will never be a full one in terms of having full use of his arm and rather amazingly the sun came out to play again once he returned! There's a message there somewhere....