Enniskillen CS Spray use was "reasonable and proportionate": Police Ombudsman

Published Date: 03.08.2006

The Police Ombudsman has found that a police officer was justified in using CS Spray during an incident near Enniskillen in December 2004.

The incident happened near the junction of the Sligo/Swanlinbar roads shortly after 3am on December 27, as an officer struggled to arrest a man who had earlier been seen driving erratically and through a red light in the town.

Police followed the car for three to four miles before it eventually came to a halt after mounting a grass verge. A number of youths were seen getting out and running in different directions. The driver ran off across a field but stumbled and was apprehended by a police officer about 40m from the road.

The officer told Police Ombudsman investigators that the man struggled violently as he tried to put handcuffs on him. He said he managed to get a handcuff onto the man's right wrist, but could not get the other one on as the man continued to struggle headbutting him on the chest, punching and wrestling with him.

The officer stated that at that stage he was among trees and he could see his colleague in the police car driving up and down the road. He tried radioing for assistance but got no reply. The officer said he then told the man to co-operate and walk with him to the road or he would use his CS Spray. He drew his CS Spray and pointed it at the suspects face, but when he continued to swear and struggle, the officer sprayed him once in the face.

The man then went limp, allowing the officer to place the second handcuff on him and lead him back towards the road. He continued to swear, spat at the officer and again headbutted him on the chest. The man was subsequently arrested for driving whilst unfit, dangerous driving, assault on police and resisting police.

On arrival at Enniskillen Police Station the custody sergeant allowed the man to stand outside for 10-15 minutes so that the CS Spray could dissipate. He was then seen by a doctor.

Police Ombudsman investigators subsequently established that the officer who used CS Spray had been trained in its use and was authorised to carry it at the time of the incident. The officer told investigators that he used CS Spray in order to prevent injury to himself and also to allow him to make an arrest.

After reviewing the evidence the Police Ombudsman concluded that the officer had given a verbal warning, which was ignored, and stated that the immediacy of the situation did not give him time to consider any other options. In the circumstances he had little option than to stop the threat with the most appropriate force available to him, said Mrs OLoan.

No misconduct issues were identified and Mrs OLoan noted that her office had received the full co-operation of the Police Service.

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