Police now use CS sprays more than truncheons

CS SPRAY has replaced the truncheon as the first line of defence for Britain's police, less than three years after it was introduced as a weapon for use only in extreme circumstances when officers are under direct physical threat.

More than 100,000 beat officers have been issued with canisters of CS and, according to figures obtained by the Independent on Sunday, its use has become commonplace - despite serious questions about health risks.

Civil liberties groups and health experts have pointed to dozens of cases in which CS spray has been used in situations where the threat to officers' safety has been negligible or non-existent. Of particular concern is the way in which it has been used to restrain the mentally ill.

Last week the Independent on Sunday revealed for the first time that police across Britain are regularly using CS spray as a "chemical straitjacket" to subdue mental patients. Now a 28-year-old mentally ill man is suing police for alleged assault with CS spray and for violating his rights as a patient. In the first case of its kind in the UK, lawyers acting for the man are suing for assault and for exemplary damages for police violation of his constitutional rights as a patient being detained under the Mental Health Act.

The use of the CS spray is now so prevalent that when Thames Valley Police began trials last week, it became the 40th force to do so. Only Nottinghamshire, Northamptonshire and Sussex constabularies have resisted the pressure to issue CS sprays.

Evidence that CS spray is quickly replacing the baton as the weapon of choice among officers emerged in a report by West Midlands police, published last week, which revealed that between July and September last year, the spray was used 203 times. During the same period, the baton was used at 82 incidents.

The Police Complaints Authority (PCA) has received 254 complaints from the public about CS spray. John Cartwright, the PCA deputy chairman, said: "I am concerned that it is sometimes being used as a convenience and inappropriately. Some officers are tempted to use it too soon."

The Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo) has championed the use of CS spray as a potential police life-saver, claiming it is a vital weapon in redressing the balance in the fight against violent criminals.

Both Mind, the mental health charity, and the civil rights group Liberty want CS spray to be banned. A spokeswoman for Liberty, Liz Parratt, said: "It is part of the drift to policing by coercion and a move away from policing by consent. It raises serious civil liberties issues."

Ms Parratt said police often ignored Acpo's guidelines and used the spray indiscriminately. She cited one occasion when CS was allegedly sprayed into a crowded coach and the doors slammed shut, and another where CS spray was said to have been used during an incident in a children's home. Other examples include the spraying of an elderly Alzheimer's patient and a pregnant woman.

The threat to the health of those exposed to CS spray remains an area of deep concern, said Ms Parratt. "More research needs to be done," she said.

Special report, page 6

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Sheridan Maine: Accounts Assistant

£25,000 - £30,000: Sheridan Maine: Are you looking for a fantastic opportunity...

Neil Pavier: Commercial Analyst

£50,000 - £55,000: Neil Pavier: Are you a professionally qualified commercial ...

Loren Hughes: Financial Accountant

£45,000 - £55,000: Loren Hughes: Are you looking for a new opportunity that wi...

Ashdown Group: IT Support Engineer - Professional Services Firm - Oxford

£21000 - £24000 per annum + 21 days holidays: Ashdown Group: Technical Support...

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor