Police to sue over CS spray injuries

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The Independent Online
Three police instructors who taught other officers how to use CS sprays are attempting to sue for alleged injuries caused by the incapacitant.

News of the actions come as 16 forces in England and Wales started trials of the CS devices. Civil liberty groups and critics believe not enough is known about the spray, which they fear could lead to deaths and a flood of litigation.

The training officers are understood to be seeking compensation for blistering caused to their skin after exposure to the spray during pre-trails. The claims for damages are the latest blow in the run up to the six-month trials of the hand-held CS spray which start today among 2,500 patrol officers.

In one of the three cases a Metropolitan Police inspector said he suffered 50 per cent burns to his eyes and had to have them covered for five days. He has claimed that the spray could cause severe injuries. His case led to the postponement of trials last year.

Two other instructors, understood to be from Surrey, are also seeking damages after they suffered blistering.

The Home Office and the Association of Chief Police Officers argue that the CS spray has been thoroughly tested and is safe if proper aftercare is used.

Nevertheless, earlier this month one of Britain's leading police self- defence experts was banned from training officers on how to use CS sprays because his chief constable was worried about being sued by people injured by it. Inspector Peter Boatman, a training officer from Northamptonshire police force, has been barred from teaching officers outside his region after Ted Crew, Chief Constable of Northamptonshire, said he feared his force could be sued if someone was injured by the spray.

Fred Broughton, chairman of the Police Federation, representing rank and file members, said yesterday: "We would have preferred to use pepper sprays, but CS spray is the next best option. We have been given categoric assurances by Home Office scientists that there are no long-term health risks, but we will be carefully monitoring the trials."

Trials of the CS canisters, which have a range of up to three metres, will last six months. Police forces involved will be the Met, West Midlands, Merseyside, Greater Manchester, Avon and Somerset, Cambridgeshire, Cleveland, Dorset, Durham, Dyfed-Powys, Kent, Leicestershire, Northumbria, North Yorkshire, West Mercia, and West Yorkshire.

If trials are successful, police throughout Britain could be issued with them.The CS powder is mixed with a solvent inside the canister and sprayed into the face. It takes immediate effect and causes streaming eyes and nose, eyelids spasm, breathing difficulties, and in some cases blistering to the skin.