Officer justified in using CS Spray against juvenile during Magherafelt incident
An investigation by the Police Ombudsman’s Office has found that a police officer was justified in using CS Spray against a 17-year-old boy he believed to be armed with a knife.
The incident happened in Magherafelt in November 2014, after police responded to reports that staff at a shop had been threatened.
The incident was referred by the Chief Constable to the Police Ombudsman for independent investigation, given that CS Spray was used against a juvenile.
Investigators obtained police documentation and spoke to civilian and police witnesses.
Staff from the shop said that they had detained two young people after they tried to leave the shop without paying for a number of items. They stated that another young person had run off, but had been caught and brought back to the premises by a member of the public.
They said the young people then became aggressive, and one of the boys warned that his friend had a knife and was dangerous.
One of the boys was also reported to have broken a coat hanger and threatened to stab a female member of staff with it, and shop displays were also said to have been wrecked.
A 999 call was then made to police and three officers arrived in response.
They each told Police Ombudsman investigators that they had been told by shop staff that one of the boys had a knife.
The officer who used CS Spray said his view of the boy had been partly obscured by a shop display, but he believed him to have the knife as he could see that neither of the other two youths was armed.
He said the boy was aggressive and refused to calm down or comply with police instructions. He recalled that he had considered using his baton, but decided not to given the distance to the boy and the fact he was behind the shop display.
The officer stated that CS Spray was the most reasonable and proportionate way of dealing with the threat, and discharged it at the boy from a distance of around two metres.
This then allowed the officers to restrain him, after which they provided advice and after care for the effects of the spray.
Members of the shop staff corroborated police accounts that CS Spray had only been used after the boy had ignored police instructions and was continuing to act aggressively.
The Police Ombudsman, Dr Michael Maguire, noted that the officer had considered other options before resorting to the use of CS Spray, and concluded that the officer’s actions were justified, proportionate and necessary.