Officer right to use CS Spray against struggling man: Police Ombudsman

Published Date: 02.08.2006

An investigation by the Police Ombudsman's Office has concluded that a police officer was justified in using CS incapicitant spray against a man who was being disorderly at Coleraine train station on 25 September 2004.

Police received a call to attend the station following reports that a man was threatening to jump in front of a train. Two officers arrived at the station just after 11.30pm to find railway staff trying to prevent a man entering the station. He appeared to be intoxicated, and was shouting and acting aggressively towards the railway staff.

The officers told him to calm down, but when he ignored this request an officer informed him that he was under arrest.

The Officers, who provided statements to the Police Ombudsman's office, said the man began to struggle wildly as they attempted to escort him to the police vehicle. They said he was throwing his arms around and pushing against them.

One of the officers then attempted to put handcuffs on him. He placed a handcuff on his right wrist, but due to the struggling was unable to apply the other handcuff.

According to the officers, the man continued to struggle and an officer warned him on three successive occasions that CS Spray would be used if he did not calm down. When the man failed to comply, the officer issued a fourth warning and alerted his colleague that he was about to use CS Spray. The man was then sprayed in the face and chest area from a reported distance of about two metres.

The officers stated that the spray's effect was almost instantaneous, allowing them to apply the second handcuff before placing him in the police car. They opened the car windows and turned on the interior fan as they drove back to Coleraine Police Station in a bid to alleviate the effects of the spray.

A Police Ombudsman investigator later established that the officer who used CS Spray had been trained in its use and was qualified to carry it on the date of the incident. CCTV footage of the incident was sought but was unavailable. The member of staff at the railway station who was recorded as having made the call to police had no recollection of the incident and could find no mention of it in the station's incident book.

After reviewing the evidence of the case, the Police Ombudsman, Mrs Nuala O'Loan, concluded that the officer had been justified in using CS Spray. She said he had been faced with an intoxicated male who continued to struggle violently despite several warnings about his behaviour. The use of CS Spray was proportionate in the circumstances.

The Police Ombudsman noted, however, that there had been a "substantial delay" in receiving documentation relating to the incident from the police.


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