WILTSHIRE Police Chief Constable Kier Pritchard and Angus Macpherson, the Police and Crime Commissioner for Wiltshire and Swindon, have welcomed the World Class Policing Award for the multi-agency response to last year’s Novichok nerve agent attacks.

Wiltshire Police and partners of the Local Resilience Forum won a prestigious World Class Policing Award last night in recognition of its ‘outstanding’ response to the 2018 Novichok attacks in Salisbury and Amesbury.

The Novichok poisonings of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in March 2018, and the subsequent poisonings of Amesbury residents Charlie Rowley and Dawn Sturgess attracted global attention and scrutiny.

As news of the incident broke in March last year, the force declared a major incident and Deputy Chief Constable Paul Mills set up the LRF Strategic Co-ordinating Group (SCG) which led the multi-agency response in dealing with the poisoning.

The two incidents saw one the biggest partnership operations ever undertaken, and local and national organisations came together to manage the potential risks to public health. Such a response had never previously been undertaken anywhere in the world.

The Wiltshire & Swindon Local Resilience Forum Strategic Coordinating Group, in collaboration with partners, worked to preserve public safety, reassure the public, and assist the ongoing murder investigation led by the Counter Terrorism Network.

The Wiltshire force and its multi-agency partners beat off competition from 54 finalists, drawn from more than 100 entries from across the globe, to win the award.

Chief Constable Kier Pritchard said: “I am immensely proud that the SCG, led by DCC Mills, has been recognised in this way. This was truly an unprecedented incident for our small force and it required a unique multi-agency approach.

“The effects of Novichok were almost entirely unknown at the time of the attacks. This award is a reflection of the huge amount of dedication shown by the SCG, as well as the hundreds of officers and staff involved in working together to keep the public safe in extraordinary circumstances.”

Deputy Chief Constable Paul Mills said: “I speak on behalf of all those partners represented in the SCG when I say we are truly honoured to have been recognised in this way. In my 23 years in the police service, I have never experienced an incident of this scale and complexity.

“This was a complex and fast-paced incident, and it is important to remember that tragically local resident Dawn Sturgess lost her life as a result of these attacks – our thoughts remain with her family and friends.

“I would like to recognise the dedication of all the officers and staff – not just from Wiltshire but all those who assisted us through mutual aid – and all the partner agencies who worked tirelessly together with us in dealing with these incidents and helping to minimise the risks to the wider public.”

Police and Crime Commissioner for Wiltshire and Swindon, Angus Macpherson added: “This is wonderful news and a much deserved award for Wiltshire Police and our partners involved in this major event.

“I have always been immensely proud of how the Chief Constable Kier Pritchard, his Deputy Paul Mills and every officer, member of staff and our valued volunteers responded to this international incident.

“With the spotlight from the world on our force and partners, they all reacted professionally with integrity at a time when the pressure was on and our communities were naturally worried.

“This world class award is testament to the long hours and hard work everyone put in to make sure that the public were kept informed, reassured and as safe as possible during a very, very difficult time. Well done all.”

The LRF Strategic Co-ordinating Group (SCG) consisted of, at its height, 26 different partner agencies including Wiltshire Police, Wiltshire Council, Ministry of Defence, DSTL, NHS, Salisbury District Hospital Trust, South Western Ambulance Service (NHS Foundation Trust), NHS England, Dorset and Wiltshire Fire & Rescue Service and Government Agencies – DEFRA, Public Health England, Environment Agency and Public Health Wiltshire.

Judges described the response as a “world class, world leading, complex response to one of the significant global events of 2018.”

A spokesman for the judging panel added: “The collaborative partnership response in the meeting, and the need to establish new processes to handle sensitive and secret communications at the highest levels of Government, UKIC and CT Policing, whilst working in the glare of local, national and international publicity was extraordinary.

“As one of the smallest forces in the United Kingdom, Wiltshire’s ability to cope with the influx of policing support from 42/43 UK forces; ensuring the working conditions of staff; the management of danger that staff and members of the community were in and also ensuring outstanding stakeholder management to explain that the response was being driven effectively was frankly extraordinary.”