Published Date: 03.08.2006
The Police Ombudsman has concluded that a police officer was justified in using CS Spray when he discharged it at a male armed with a knife, after being called to a disturbance in Bessbrook in October 2004.
The incident happened on 18 October after police responded to a call from a female who reported that she had been thrown out of her house by her drunken partner. The woman expressed concern for her young child who was still in the house.
When officers attended the scene they were confronted by a man armed with a large kitchen knife. The man was using abusive language, including at one stage shouting: "I'll kill you all."
The fire service were also in attendance, following a threat by the man to set fire to the house.
Despite numerous warnings, the man refused to drop the knife. One officer told Police Ombudsman investigators that he was sufficiently worried by the man s behaviour that he drew his police issue firearm.
At around the same time another officer drew his CS Spray from its holster and shouted a further warning. This too went unheeded, after which the officer discharged a single burst of CS Spray into the man s face from a distance of 4 to 5 metres.
The man ran back into the house and shut the door behind him. Police forced entry to the house and arrested and handcuffed him. The young child was found to be safe and well and the kitchen knife was recovered.
In accordance with force guidelines, the CS Spray canister was sealed in an evidence bag. When later weighed its weight was 37.2g, compared to 54.6g at time of issue to the officer.
Police Ombudsman investigators subsequently conducted enquiries in the area, and spoke to one member of the public who had not seen the discharge of the CS Spray, but confirmed that he had seen a man threatening officers while armed with a large knife.
A fire officer who was at the scene stated that he too had been threatened by the man, and confirmed that police officers had issued a number of warnings before the CS Spray was used. He believed the officer to have been fully justified in his actions.
Further enquiries established that the officer who used the CS Spray was properly qualified to carry and use the Spray.
After reviewing the evidence of the case, the Police Ombudsman, Mrs Nuala O'Loan, concluded that the officer had been faced with "a potentially life-threatening situation" and was "justified in using force to prevent a serious assault."
"The officer was faced with a situation where immediate action was necessary to stop the threat posed by the subject to himself and others. In these circumstances he had little option other than to stop the threat with the most appropriate force available to him," said Mrs O'Loan.
"It should also be recognised that a second officer had perceived the threat to be so great that he considered using lethal force."
Mrs O'Loan concluded that her investigation had established no evidence of any misconduct or criminal offences being committed by any officer, and stated that she had received the full co-operation of the PSNI during the investigation.