Published Date: 03.08.2006
The Police Ombudsman has released details of an incident during which CS Spray was used to subdue two males at Railway Street in Strabane on 5 September 2004.
The incident happened at around 8.30am after a police mobile patrol spotted a male breaking a storefront window. The male was arrested but as an officer tried to take him back to the police vehicle another male intervened and a struggle ensued.
The confrontation escalated and in a statement provided to investigators from the Police Ombudsman's office, the officer said he feared for the safety of himself and his colleague. He then issued a warning that he would use CS Spray, and when the men failed to respond he sprayed both in the area of their faces.
Once sprayed, the males stopped struggling and fell to their knees. The officers told Police Ombudsman investigators that they went to assist and advised the males to stop rubbing their eyes.
They were later examined by a doctor and found to be suffering no continuing long-term effects from CS Spray.
The canister of CS Spray used during the incident was sealed in an evidence bag and weighed to determine the amount used.
Subsequent enquiries by Police Ombudsman investigators established that the officer who had discharged the CS Spray had been trained in its use on 15 July 2004 and was therefore qualified to carry it at the time of the incident.
No response was received to requests for statements from the two men apprehended during the incident.
After reviewing the evidence, Mrs O'Loan said the officers had been "faced with a situation that potentially threatened their safety" and concluded that they had been justified in using CS spray.
"The officer who used CS Spray was justified in using force in these circumstances in order to prevent an assault on a police officer and effect the arrest.
"The use of CS Spray would appear to have been justified and appropriate in this instance," said Mrs O'Loan, who also noted that her investigators had received full co-operation from the PSNI during the investigation.
The incident was referred to the Police Ombudsman by the Chief Constable, following a request from the PSNI that each use of CS Spray should be investigated during the initial six months of its deployment in Northern Ireland.