CS Spray use justified during Maghera incident

Published Date: 13.11.2006

The Police Ombudsman's Office has said a police officer was right to discharge CS Spray twice at a group of people during fighting in the Main Street, Maghera, in which a man was being badly beaten.

For a limited period following the introduction of CS Spray, the Chief Constable asked the Police Ombudsman's Office to investigate all instances when the spray was used. Those findings have since been fed back to the PSNI.

The incident began shortly after midnight on 15 November 2004, when five police officers were tasked to the Main Street in Maghera following reports that a man was lying on the ground after being assaulted. When they arrived on the scene they noted approximately 100 people to be in the area. A group of approximately forty people started fighting in the area of Coleraine Road.

The crowd was openly hostile to police and verbal exchanges were heard between two groups who were fighting. Police moved in, in an attempt to break up the fight. An officer drew his CS spray from its holder and started to shout warnings at the crowd. The fighting quelled for a brief time, but started again when factions began to regroup.

The officers attention was then drawn to a group of approximately 8 people who appeared to be kicking at a man lying on the ground. The Constable moved to this area and again shouted warnings for the fighting to stop. He could hear the physical blows being rained down on the man.

He then sprayed a burst of his CS spray to approximately 5 people, which had an immediate effect on the group. The officer was then aware of another man approaching from his right. He discharged his CS spray in the man's face.

No arrests were made due to the large number of people in the area and the threat of public disorder.Officers who had attended the scene provided statements to Police Ombudsman investigators, all of which were corroborative. CCTV evidence was also obtained.

Police were not aware of the identity of any of the men who had been sprayed and no one complained to the Police Ombudsmans Office about what happened. The Mid-Ulster Hospital was checked to confirm if any person had been treated for the effects of CS spray with a negative result. Witnesses had been traced but were unwilling to assist the Police Ombudsman's investigation.

Police Ombudsman, Mrs Nuala O'Loan, said that all the available evidence appears to justify the use of force. "The officer who used CS Spray was faced with an extremely violent situation. He was justified in using force in these circumstances, particularly in order to prevent a serious assault on a member of the public who was lying on the ground while being repeatedly beaten," she said

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