An investigation by the Police Ombudsman’s Office has found that police were justified in using CS Spray against a number of young people following disturbances at a Co. Down children’s home.
Staff at the home called police in January 2016 to request assistance as two male residents were causing damage to the home and had threatened staff. A disturbance could be heard in the background.
When police arrived, staff advised them that the youths – aged 15 and 17 - had caused considerable damage, including smashing an alarm system, breaking glass in doors, destroying furniture and flooding a corridor. They had then barricaded themselves in a room with three female residents, and placed a wardrobe across the door.
Staff said they believed the boys were intent on confronting police and had weapons, believed to be chair or table legs, possibly with nails or screws sticking out of them.
When interviewed by Police Ombudsman investigators, the officers involved said that they discussed with staff from the home different possibilities for resolving the situation, before deciding to use CS Spray if the disorderly behaviour continued.
"Youth swiped at officer with metal bar"
Officers reported that when they went to the room they saw a youth on top of a wardrobe armed with a metal bar, believed to be a chair leg. He then swiped out with the bar towards police.
The youths were told to put the weapons down and come out of the room, but staff and officers said this was met with more aggressive behaviour and shouting from within the room.
Officers then warned that CS spray would be used if the youths did not comply. When the warning was ignored, officers pushed the door of the room open far enough to direct a burst of CS Spray into the room over the top of the wardrobe.
Police were then able to arrest the two males, one of whom resisted attempts to handcuff him. All of the youths in the room were then given after care by police for the effects of the CS Spray, and the two boys were then taken into police custody.
The incident was subsequently referred by the Chief Constable to the Police Ombudsman, in line with an agreement that all incidents in which of CS Spray is used against juveniles should be subject to independent investigation.
The officers involved and staff from the home were interviewed and provided consistent accounts of what had happened. Staff from the home praised the officers’ professionalism and said they had no complaints to make about the way in which they had handled the situation.
Investigators also spoke to one of the boys against whom CS Spray had been used. He had no complaint about police actions. The other youth did not engage with the Police Ombudsman’s enquiries.
Enquiries showed that the officer who used CS Spray was properly trained in its use and authorised to use it.
The Police Ombudsman concluded that the officers had considered other means of resolving the situation before resorting to the use of CS Spray and concluded that its use during the incident had been “lawful, proportionate and necessary.”