Wales crash: Calls for Welsh Government to step in as police handling of missing people investigated
The Welsh Government should step in as two police forces are being investigated by the police watchdog following a fatal crash in Cardiff over the weekend, a Plaid Cymru politician has said.
The victims of the collision, in which three people died and two were seriously injured, were found almost 48 hours after police believe the vehicle to have crashed.
Both South Wales Police and Gwent Police referred themselves to the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC), with the body set to investigate the forces' actions with regards to the missing persons investigation.
Raising the matter in the Senedd on Wednesday, Plaid Cymru politician Peredur Owen Griffiths MS said that while he would not preempt the findings of the investigation, "you cannot ignore the public disquiet from the families and the friends of the crash victims," and referred to the "great deal of public distress" following the incident.
The matter was raised in the Senedd
He said that, despite criminal justice not being devolved to Wales and therefore the responsibility of the UK Government, the investigation into the forces' handling of the incident should still have involvement from the Welsh Government.
"This is a matter that should involve this Government due to its implications for community safety," Mr Griffiths said.
Darcy Ross, 21, and Eve Smith, 21, both from Newport, and Rafel Jeanne, 24, from Cardiff, died following the incident off the A48 in St Mellons, Cardiff.
Sophie Russon, 20, from Newport and Shane Loughlin, 32, from Cardiff, were left in a critical condition.
The group were found in the early hours of Monday 6 March - almost 48 hours after their last confirmed sighting over the weekend, with questions being raised by some over the police response.
Jane Hutt MS, Minister for Social Justice, responded that the Welsh Government hope to "do everything to support the family and friends of those who were affected” and confirmed there has been "regular" contact with the police regarding the matter.
She said the IOPC investigation will look at "exactly what happened."
She added, “We just have to recognise the extraordinary public grief that was expressed at the vigil for victims that took place at the site of the crash last night.”
What the IOPC has said:
David Ford, IOPC director, said: "After careful assessment of referrals from Gwent police and South Wales police, we have decided to independently investigate how police responded to the missing person reports.
"We will be examining what information police had, the grading given to any risk assessments and the steps taken by police to locate the missing people prior to the Volkswagen Tiguan being found just after midnight on Monday.
Mr Ford continued: "We will also consider what communication took place between the two forces and whether police action was appropriate and followed relevant policy and procedures."“Our investigation is at a very early stage."
“We will be contacting the families involved to express our sympathies, explain our role and set out how our investigation will progress.
"We are aware of the significant community concern about the tragic events that have unfolded and would like to assure everyone that we will conduct a thorough and timely investigation.”
Jayne Bryant, MS for Newport West, added that the "absolutely heartbreaking” incident has "reverberated around the country," particularly in the close-knit community of Maesglas, Newport, where several of the victims are from.
She asked whether the Minister would "keep a close eye" on the IOPC investigation and work with the Police and Crime Commissioners, as well as the community, throughout the process.
Jane Hutt MS confirmed she "will certainly be keeping a close eye on the work” and “will be asking for any updates."
Meanwhile, the Presiding Officer of the Senedd, Rt Hon Elin Jones MS, sent her thoughts to the families of the victims of the crash on behalf of Senedd Members.
Speaking of Rafel Jeanne, she said: "I remember watching (him) playing rugby in the same team as my nephew in primary school."
"Such a young, fast talent on the rugby field," she added.
Gwent Police said it is unable to comment on matters further due to the ongoing IOPC investigation.
South Wales Police said specialist officers are continuing to investigate the collision.
A spokesperson said: "Our thoughts continue to be with the families and all those affected by this tragic incident.
"Family liaison officers are supporting the families involved at what must be a hugely difficult time for them."