Published Date: 03.08.2006
A Police Ombudsman investigation has found that a police officer was right to use CS Spray on a man during events at a recent Oul' Lammas Fair in Ballycastle.
The investigation was one of a number of investigations the Police Ombudsman s Office undertook in 2004 when the PSNI asked it to investigate all use of the Spray in the last three months of that year.
The incident happened over the weekend of the Fair. Just before two o'clock on the morning of Monday, August 30, police were called to attend a situation in the town where a large crowd had been involved in a fight.
Thirteen officers attended the scene and although the fight had ended by that stage, a large crowd remained in the area.
One man in particular appeared extremely agitated and at one stage kicked part of the bumper off a police vehicle. Due to the volatile mood of the crowd, the police decided not to arrest the man at that stage. However, he continued to be verbally abusive to the police. As an officer warned the man about his behaviour the man lashed out and hit him. The man was arrested.
A second man intervened and tried to prevent the arrest, punching the police officer on the side of the face. Both men fell to the ground and the man continued to struggle violently and kicked the officer. As this continued, the crowd who had been watching, began to get hostile.
A police officer who had been watching this shouted at the man to stop. When the man refused to, the officer used his CS Spray. The man stopped struggling, was arrested and placed in the back of a police van. The crowd then began to gather at the police van and another officer had to warn them to keep away or he too would use CS Spray.
Police Ombudsman investigators spoke to the police officers involved, examined the CS Spray canister and the documentation which had been completed following its use.
They searched for any available CCTV footage of the incident but none was recovered.
The investigators also contacted both men who had been arrested that morning. One of the men did not cooperate with the Police Ombudsman team.
The other man, who had been the subject of the spray, said he did not recall police officers warning him that they would use CS Spray. He also said, however, that he had no complaint to make against the officers nor did he have a full recollection of events that night, due to the amount of drink he had taken.
The Police Ombudsman's report concluded that available evidence appears to justify the use of the spray.
"We did not find any evidence to suggest the use of the spray was other than lawful. There is evidence to suggest its use was justified in the circumstances.
"The available evidence suggested that the police used a 'graduated response': they began by trying to calm the man down by talking to him, they then tried to restrain him, he was warned that the spray may be used and only when all these approaches failed was it actually used."