MOHIBUR Rahman, a convicted sex offender with a history of violence, is currently serving a lengthy prison sentence after stabbing a young waiter and the owner of Darlington’s Shapla restaurant, where he had worked as a pot-washer.

In July 2016, he left his colleagues for dead in an unprovoked attack so savage it left the busy restaurant looking like a “scene from a horror movie”.

In the days leading up to the stabbing, the paranoid drug user called 999 four times and was taken into police custody the evening before the attack, having regaled officers with a series of outlandish claims, telling them there were evil spirits – and Darlington’s missing children – trapped beneath his floorboards.

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After scrutinising the contact between the force and Rahman in the crucial hours leading up to the incident, the Independent Police Complaints Commission stopped short of saying that Durham Constabulary could have done more to prevent the horrific assault.

As an unstable drug user with a history of violence and set on a path of destruction, it may have been impossible to stop Rahman from harming others. However, the fact that the police missed opportunities to intervene is reflected in a report that highlights a damning lack of resources.

The force simply did not have the numbers to respond to Rahman’s threats and erratic behaviour adequately – when he called 999 just hours before carrying out his attack, there were just four or five officers available to respond to 15 on-going incidents, all of which required a priority or immediate response. That was nothing new, according to call-handlers who told the IPCC that they regularly struggled to dispatch officers to priority calls, some of which were subsequently left four or five hours without a response.

Apparently, not a shift would go by without a priority call missing its one hour response target.

Durham Constabulary say changes have been made since then, with more resources deployed to cover peak times.

However, Rahman’s devastating attack underlines the importance of addressing ever-dwindling police resources, an issue not isolated to a single force. Since 2010, the number of police officers in County Durham and Darlington has dropped by 400, with the area’s Police Crime and Victims Commissioner Ron Hogg concerned that the budget for local policing will continue to be slashed.

Years of austerity measures have resulted in swingeing cuts not only to police budgets but to mental health care, social services, drug and alcohol support, charities and other organisations that make up the fabric of this country’s safety net.

As proven in the case of Rahman, a system so underfunded that it regularly fails to respond to those in crisis can have potentially deadly consequences. Terrible and unpredictable events will continue to happen regardless but every now and again, there will be the opportunity to intervene, the possibility of saving a life. The Government must do all it can to ensure a call for help never goes unanswered. It can start by properly resourcing our emergency services.