A Police Ombudsman investigation has concluded that police were justified in using CS Spray against a 17-year-old who was acting aggressively while officers investigated a burglary in Ballymena.
The incident was referred to the Police Ombudsman by the Chief Constable, in line with a protocol that all discharges of CS spray against juveniles should be independently investigated.
It happened in May 2015 as officers were dealing with another man they suspected of having committed a burglary. Officers reported that the juvenile was shouting, had his fists clenched and tried to push past an officer to enter a house where police were recovering property.
The officer who used the spray said the youth ignored several warnings and had been coming towards him with his fists clenched when the spray was used.
The spray proved effective and officers reported that the youth lowered himself into a seated position which then allowed them to restrain him and apply handcuffs. He was given aftercare advice before being arrested on suspicion of burglary and other offences and taken into custody.
The youth later lodged a complaint with the Police Ombudsman’s Office, stating that he had sustained an eye injury when officers pushed his face against the ground during his arrest.
Officers and witnesses reported that youth had suffered facial injury prior to arrest.
However, officers reported that the youth had a noticeable facial injury before the arrest. This was confirmed by a civilian witness who had also seen the injury before police intervened, while another witness later stated that he had caused the injury before police arrived.
Officers and another civilian witness also confirmed that the youth had been acting aggressively, that officers had tried to calm him down, and that several warnings had been issued before CS spray was used.
Having reviewed the evidence, the Police Ombudsman investigator concluded that the use of CS spray had been justified, and had only been used when other non-violent means of resolving the situation had proved ineffective.
The youth’s account was found to be inconsistent with other evidence gathered during the investigation, and his complaint was closed as not substantiated.
Enquiries also confirmed that the officer who used CS spray was properly trained and authorised in its use.