Police officer cleared of CS spray assault

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A POLICE officer wept after he was acquitted yesterday of assaulting a female colleague and two other people with a CS gas spray.

Constable Andrew Bateson, who is employed by the Greater Manchester force, was the first police officer in the UK to be charged with causing actual bodily harm to a fellow officer, 30-year-old Constable Deborah Davidson, by the use of CS spray. He was charged nine months ago after a 12-month internal police inquiry.

His trial at Minshull Street Crown Court, Manchester, centred on whether he had over-reacted outside the Farnworth Veterans' Club in Bolton, Greater Manchester, when he was called to a fight at a surprise birthday party in November 1997.

As fighting continued all around him, PC Bateson, 28, called for back- up. PC Davidson arrived and was in the middle of a crowd of people, including the other alleged victims, Joanne Bagguley, 24 - whose boyfriend had been arrested - and Francis Walsh, 50, when they were sprayed with the disabling gas.

PC Davidson told the court she had successfully calmed the people and convinced them to go home when they were sprayed with the gas.

"I felt some liquid on one side of my face," she said. "I looked and saw PC Bateson holding a gas canister. It was obvious he was gassing me and the females in the group."

She insisted no warning had been given about the spray being used and said there was no reason for it to be used. But PC Bateson, who has a commendation for "commitment, professionalism and dedication to duty," dismissed this claim as "rubbish".

He claimed he had been forced to act because PC Davidson was not doing her job properly. He said he had shouted "spray" out of courtesy to other officers to warn them what was happening. PC Bateson said he had been holding a prisoner in one hand and he had tried to pull PC Davidson away before resorting to the gas.

Last night, a Greater Manchester Police spokesman said PC Bateson would receive further training in the use of CS spray before returning to patrols.