Published Date: 03.08.2006
The Police Ombudsman has concluded that an officer acted properly when he used CS Spray during "a potentially life-threatening situation" in Portadown.
The incident happened shortly before 8am on 24 October 2004 in the Thomas Street area of the town. Two officers had gone to the scene after receiving reports of damage being caused to a car.
When they arrived they saw an elderly man being attacked by one of two men. The attacker was arrested, having been seen trying to hide a hammer behind a wall as police approached.
When officers moved to arrest the second man he produced a claw hammer from one of his pockets and struck one of the officers on the side of the head. The officer managed to wrestle the man to the ground, but he refused to stop struggling despite repeated requests.
As the struggle continued, the other officer issued two warnings that he was a police officer and was preparing to use CS Spray. These warnings were ignored and the officer discharged two bursts of CS Spray into the man s face and chest from a distance of about two metres, immediately incapacitating him.
Both men were then handcuffed and taken to Lurgan Police Station, where the man who struck the officer continued to be uncooperative and abusive in his dealings with officers.
Civilian witnesses later confirmed that officers had been involved in a struggle with a man who was armed with a hammer.
Investigators also secured statements from the police officers who had been at the scene and these were found to corroborate each other.
In addition, the officers' training records were examined and the officer who used the CS Spray was found to have been trained in its use of 12 October 2004 and was therefore authorised to carry it on the night in question.
After reviewing the evidence of the case, the Police Ombudsman Mrs Nuala O'Loan, concluded that the officer who used his Spray had been required to make a "split second decision".
"In the circumstances he had little option other than to stop the threat with the most appropriate force available to him," said Mrs O'Loan.
She noted that the evidence of two civilians was consistent with that of the officers at the scene and concluded that "the use of force was proportionate, within legislation and guidelines" and "necessary to prevent serious injury."