INVESTIGATING fatal crashes and accidents in which people suffer life-changing injuries day in and day out might not seem like the most appealing job.
But for Insp Matt Bailey-Smith, and his team at Greater Manchester Police’s serious collision investigation unit (SCIU), helping people get through the darkest days of their lives is one of the highlights of his job.
Insp Bailey-Smith, a former Canon Slade School pupil, heads up the unit in Eccles, which is made up of one inspector, five sergeants and 40 police constables.
The unit provides 24-hour cover to attend and investigate the force’s most serious crashes.
Insp Bailey-Smith, who has been in the police for more than 15 years, said: “The job is based around knowledge and expertise.
"It is strange as you are dealing with things that are unpleasant. Nobody goes out with the intention of killing somebody on the road.
“We deal with things that are very sudden, which cause a huge amount of trauma. The rewarding aspect of the job is being able to provide a good service to families and when somebody has caused a death it’s about getting the justice for the victims.
“We can help families through the process, we have a good conviction rate following investigations. For families the sentencing is never going to be enough, we just try to get the absolute best evidence we can and provide the best victim impact statements we can to the courts.”
The SCIU deals with everything from fatal crashes to motorway suicides and medical episodes behind the wheel.
Insp Bailey-Smith’s job is to lead the investigation into crashes by ensuring no stone is left uncovered.
Officers attend the scene, speak to key witnesses, obtain evidence including CCTV, mobile phones, do house-to-house enquiries and prepare tributes and appeals for the media.
The pressure to reopen roads following a crash is one of the challenges faced by the team.
Insp Bailey-Smith said: “People ask why we keep roads closed for so long after a collision. The best way of putting it is if an incident has happened at a house you shut that house and put a bobby on the door but we only have one opportunity to get the information we need.
“It can be quite pressured sometimes. We get a lot of pressure to open roads quite quickly. Our primary factor whenever we attend a collision will be for the casualty.
“The primary function of the police is to save life and limb.”
He said many things alter crash scenes, including debris being displaced by air ambulances landing.
The unit aims to deal with investigations within a few weeks but some can take longer.
He said: “There’s no rule about how you deal with an incident as they are all different. We deal with people when they are going through the worst thing that could happen to somebody,but we pride ourselves in doing the best we can.
“It is a real privilege to be able to get people through some of the darkest days of their lives. We can’t change the terrible thing that’s happened to them but officers can have a huge impact on people.”
The unit works hand-in-hand with forensic collision reconstruction officers who piece together the circumstances of the crashes.
When there is not a prosecution but a person has died the police are duty bound to investigate for the coroner for an inquest to be carried out into how the person met their death.
Insp Bailey-Smith said work also includes taking information away from the scene such as when residents say “this has been a long time coming” and looking into whether further incidents can be prevented.
The workload can be unpredictable and the unit is never able to say “no” to an incident.
Across the force the unit has already dealt with more than 30 fatal incidents, more than 50 serious or life changing crashes and several suicides this year — an increase on last year.
Prevention work is also a key aspect of the job. Officers get involved in campaigns to prevent drink-driving, to encourage everybody to wear seatbelts and other prevention events.