Published Date: 15.09.2015
The Police Ombudsman has concluded that police were justified in using CS Spray against a 17-year-old in Ballymena on Boxing Day 2014.
The incident was referred to the Police Ombudsman’s Office by the Chief Constable, in line with an agreement that incidents involving the use of CS Spray against juveniles should be referred for independent investigation.
Enquiries established that at about 1.40am on Boxing Day police had received a report that a fight had broken out at a house party involving a resident of the house and the 17-year-old.
The caller reported that people were banging on the house door, and a distressed female could be heard crying in the background.
The two officers who were first to arrive at the scene reported seeing the 17-year-old sitting on the bonnet of a car some distance from the house.
They said he was aggressive and shouted abuse at them, then walked towards them with his fists clenched while continuing to shout abuse.
The officers told him to calm down, but said their instructions were ignored. One of the officers then drew her CS Spray and shouted a warning, which was also ignored as the male continued to approach.
The second officer said he drew his baton and held it concealed behind his leg, for use if CS Spray did not successfully resolve the situation.
The officer who used the CS Spray said she gave a second warning before directing a short burst of CS Spray at the youth, which proved effective and allowed the officers to restrain and handcuff him. He was then given aftercare advice before being taken to custody.
After being notified about the incident, a Police ombudsman investigator went to the custody suite and spoke to the youth, who said he had no complaints about the incident.
The officer who had drawn his baton confirmed that he had heard the youth being warned about CS Spray before it was used, and had not needed to use the baton.
The investigator subsequently identified the people who had been at the party and approached them for information, but they chose not to co-operate with the investigation. A witness appeal also failed to identify any additional witnesses.
Two other officers who had been at the scene were unable to provide any information about the use of CS Spray as it had been deployed before their arrival. No CCTV footage of the incident was available.
Further enquiries established that the officer who used CS Spray was properly trained in its use, and had been authorised to use it at the time of the incident. She had also completed necessary documentation relating to the incident.
The Police Ombudsman, Dr Michael Maguire, found that the officer had used a graduated approach during the incident, initially telling the youth to calm down and stay back and issuing warnings before finally resorting to the use of CS Spray.
He concluded that the use of CS Spray had been, in the circumstances, lawful, proportionate and necessary.