Doctors call for ban on CS spray

A LEADING medical journal has called for a moratorium on the use of CS spray by the police, in the light of growing unease about the extent of the weapon's deployment.

Earlier this month, the Independent on Sunday revealed how police were using the spray to restrain mentally ill people in hospitals, police stations, and even their own homes.

Now, an editorial in The Lancet, one of the profession's most influential journals, calls for the "chemical baton" to be withdrawn from officers on the beat until more research is conducted into its health implications.

The Lancet's position represents a serious challenge to the claims of police chiefs and the Home Office that CS is not dangerous for the user and bystander, and is a relatively innocuous incapacitant. It also adds weight to the deep concerns voiced by mental-health experts and civil liberties campaigners in recent weeks about the misuse of CS spray.

The Lancet claims CS spray has been "under-investigated", saying: "There are concerns that the effects on the victims are not as benign as was thought." It concludes: "It is right to question policy when safety remains in doubt. Until police authorities can publish or cite adequate safety studies, there should be a moratorium on the use of CS spray."

The Lancet also argues that because CS lingers, it is an occupational health issue, too, for police officers, police doctors and accident and emergency personnel. Police doctors in Bedfordshire, fearing the effects of secondary exposure, are refusing to attend to prisoners in custody who have been sprayed, it says. But a spokesman for Bedfordshire Police said there was no record of this happening.

CS spray is designed to have an instant effect and is supposed to be used only on violent or armed suspects. It blinds the target, causes breathlessness and burns and blisters the skin. But the effects are meant to be only temporary and to cause no lasting harm. It is this last point that is being questioned by doctors.

One survey showed that of 34 people sprayed, only two recovered in the prescribed period of 15 minutes and more than half were still suffering symptoms such as blistering, watery eyes and breathing difficulties more than a week later.

The long-term damage to the eyes is of utmost concern to doctors. Peter Gray, a consultant ophthalmologist, explained: "CS causes the protective layer across the eye to become denuded, which will allow infective organisms to enter the eye, and this infection, once it sets hold, can lead to blindness."

Police chiefs defend CS spray as the key to reducing injuries to officers. Avon and Somerset Constabulary, for example, has seen a 20 per cent drop in injuries since CS spray was issued to its 2,500 front-line officers.

A spokesman for the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo) said the CS spray safety concerns were being, "grossly exaggerated". He added that "the next generation of [safer] CS spray" was being studied by Home Office scientists.

Concern about the use of CS spray by police is not limited to those on the receiving end. Even in the force, serious reservations about its safety exist among a minority of officers. The first victims of long-term health problems caused by CS spray were, in fact, police officers.

Internal police testing of the new CS sprays began in 1995 but was aborted after several serious injuries. A Metropolitan police inspector was reported to have suffered 50 per cent burns to the cornea of one eye and 40 per cent to the other.

Dr Jill Tan, the Home Office scientist responsible for approving CS spray, was injured in one of the early tests. Only water-filled canisters are now used in training exercises.

All but three police forces have now implemented CS spray, but Nottinghamshire, Northamptonshire and Sussex have refused because of doubts over its safety. In Northamptonshire, 70 per cent of police voted against CS spray being issued.

Arts and Entertainment
Game Of Thrones
Uh-oh, winter is coming. Ouch, my eyes! Ygritte’s a goner. Lysa’s a goner. Tywin’s a goner. Look, a dragon
tvSpoiler warning: The British actor says viewers have 'not seen the last' of his character
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvOnly remaining original cast-member to leave long-running series
The Etihad Stadium, home of Manchester City
premier leaguePlus all the build-up to Man City vs Chelsea and Everton vs Palace
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Polly Borgen at the Tribeca Film Festival in 2012
peopleThe Emmy award-winner starred in Cape Fear, the Sopranos and Desperate House Wives
people'I hated him during those times'
Britain's shadow chancellor Ed Balls (L) challenges reporter Rob Merrick for the ball during the Labour Party versus the media soccer match,
peopleReporter left bleeding after tackle from shadow Chancellor in annual political football match
Rumer was diagnosed with bipolarity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder: 'I was convinced it was a misdiagnosis'
peopleHer debut album caused her post-traumatic stress - how will she cope as she releases her third record?
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
Arts and Entertainment
tvReview: 'Time Heist' sees a darker side to Peter Capaldi's Doctor
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Head of Marketing and Communications - London - up to £80,000

£70000 - £80000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Group Head of Marketing and Communic...

Nursery Nurse

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: Level 3 Nursery Nurse required for ...

Nursery Nurse

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: L3 Nursery Nurses urgently required...

SEN Teaching Assistant

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: We have a number of schools based S...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam