Published Date: 21.02.2014
The Police Ombudsman, Dr Michael Maguire, has said the action of a police officer who used CS spray on a 14 year old student while in college in Derry/Londonderry earlier this year was necessary.
The incident happened on 7 January at a college in the Waterside area of the city. Given the age of the person who had been sprayed and the fact that it had happened in a school, Dr Maguire decided that the police action should be subject of an independent investigation and asked his staff to examine what happened.
His investigators spoke to the key people involved, including teachers and pupils at the school and the police officer in question and examined all the relevant police documentation. They also spoke to the boy who had been sprayed and to his parents.
The investigators established that police first became involved when they received an emergency 999 call on 7 January 2014 asking for help because a male pupil was causing a disturbance.
When a police sergeant who had been on patrol arrived at the college, the Principal told him a pupil had put his fist through a glass window and was being aggressive and abusive to staff.
Principal said pupil had put his fist through a window and was being aggressive to staff.
The officer found the boy in the college’s main entrance foyer. He said the student was pacing up and down, was bleeding heavily from his hand and appeared very angry.
The officer started a conversation with the boy and told investigators that he had tried to reason with the student. He said this conversation continued for a few minutes but the pupil remained very aggressive throughout and pushed and threatened him.
The officer warned the pupil that if he did not calm down he would have to use CS Spray, but this made no difference to the student’s manner
The officer said he noted that the immediate area was clear of other pupils and was well ventilated and then gave another warning to the student to calm down. He said the boy ignored this, so he sprayed him.
The student was then handcuffed and arrested. The officer gave him first aid for the effects of the spay and arranged for the injures to his hand to be treated. The student was then taken to Strand Road police station where he was questioned in the presence of an older member of his family. The boy apologised to the police officer.
The parents had listened to the police officer's interview with their son and said they fully understood why the officer had taken the action he had.
Police Ombudsman investigators spoke to the teachers who saw what happened. These witnesses said the police officer was calm and professional throughout and in their view he had no option but to use the spray.
Investigators examined the school’s CCTV footage and met the pupil and his parents. The parents had listened to the police officers interview with their son and said they fully understood why the officer had taken the action he had.
Dr. Maguire concluded that the officer had done the right thing:
“This young man had already hurt himself, was bleeding quite badly and needed medical attention. He had also threatened the officer and others and efforts to pacify him seemed to have failed. The officer said he feared for the boy’s safety and the safety of others and had no alternative. No one who saw what happened, including the boy himself, is questioning his judgement.” he said.