Officer's split second decision to use CS Spray during Crumlin incident was justified: Police Ombuds

Published Date: 03.08.2006

The Police Ombudsman has concluded that a police officer was right to use CS Spray to subdue a male armed with knives during an incident at Crumlin on 5 November 2004.

The incident happened at around 10.25pm in the Lakeview area of the village when police responded to a report of a disturbance.

They arrived to find a man armed with a knife in each hand attempting to gain entry to a house.

When officers confronted the man, he warned them that he would stab anyone who came near and pointed the knives in their direction. After ignoring a number of requests to drop the knives, the male was warned by police that they would use CS Spray if he did not comply with their request.

When he failed to do so a police officer sprayed CS Spray towards the male's face. As the spray took effect the male dropped the knives and was told to place his hands behind his back. He was then handcuffed and placed under arrest.

Officers at the scene told Police Ombudsman investigators that the man was brought to his feet and held for a time in a light breeze, before being placed in the rear of a police vehicle with the windows open.

He was taken to the custody suite at Antrim PSNI station, where his shirt and jacket were removed as officers believed they might be contaminated with elements of CS Spray.

The officer who used CS Spray provided a statement to Police Ombudsman investigators describing the sequence of events surrounding the CS Spray discharge.

This account was corroborated by other officers at the scene, and by a civilian witness who said he believed police had used minimal force against the person.

The male who was arrested did not respond to requests from Police Ombudsman investigators for a statement about the circumstances of the incident.

Examination of police training records established that the officer who used CS Spray had been trained in its use in September 2004 and was therefore authorised to carry it on the date of the incident.

After reviewing the evidence of the case, the Police Ombudsman Mrs Nuala O'Loan said the officer had made a "split second decision" to use the spray, based on "his perception of the immediate threat to himself and other members of the public and police officers in the immediate area."

"He was faced with a hostile and violent situation where immediate action was necessary to stop the threat of serious injury, to himself and others, from an armed individual," said Mrs O'Loan.

"That person had already been given a number of verbal warnings to desist, and to drop both knives, but had ignored them and had in fact become more aggressive towards the police at the scene."

Mrs O'Loan therefore concluded that the officer "was fully justified in using force in these circumstances in order to prevent a serious assault occurring."

The Police Ombudsman noted, however, that police had failed to notify her office about the incident using the recognised call out procedure, but had instead sent a fax which arrived some eight hours after the incident. She recommended that District Commanders should be reminded of the need to inform her office as soon as possible after similar incidents.



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