Family of dead man to sue police over use of CS spray

Eric Smith was 52 when he died of a heart attack while in police custody, nearly two years ago. He had no previous history of heart disease but just a few days before his death he had been sprayed in the face with CS by police officers.

Eric Smith was 52 when he died of a heart attack while in police custody, nearly two years ago. He had no previous history of heart disease but just a few days before his death he had been sprayed in the face with CS by police officers.

Now his family are to take legal action against West Yorkshire police, and the Crown Prosecution Service is also investigating whether the officers should face charges.

The family's solicitor has called for a clampdown on the use of CS spray. "We believe he was unlawfully killed," said Istikhar Manzoor, from Irwin Mitchell solicitors.

"He died of a heart attack after being seen by a police surgeon in custody yet had no previous history of heart problems. There has to be a serious clampdown - CS spray should be used as a last resort."

Mr Smith's family believe their case has been boosted by an admission by CS spray manufacturers that their products have failed to meet Home Office safety standards.

Canisters, similar to those used by police officers in 40 forces, have failed to meet the standards laid down by the Police Scientific Development Branch of the Home Office.

The products have now been modified to comply with the standards set but there are no plans to withdraw 200,000 of the old design of canisters already issued to police forces.

Civil Defence Supply was one of four companies that failed the test on the basis that its product delivered too much spray. The canister has now been passed after modifications.

Yesterday, the company said the tests had been ordered on products from all suppliers after concerns over "massive variations in quality and concentration".

Primetake, which markets the spray for French company Alsetex, also admitted that the products had failed to meet specifications, but that the revised design was being issued to police forces this month.

Serious doubts have already been raised over the use of CS spray and its effects on health. Ibrahima Sey, 29, a Gambian asylum seeker, died after he was sprayed when he was handcuffed and on his knees in Ilford police station. The coroner at his inquest raised concerns over use of the incapacitant.

Earlier this year, a Police Complaints Authority report found that a third of public complaints about CS result from police officers squirting the spray at near point-blank range in breach of guidelines.

Last week the coroner at West London Coroner's Court wrote to the Home Secretary to voice concerns over police use of CS spray after an inquest heard it could have played a part in the death of a champion bodybuilder.

Officers used three full cans of the spray to pacify 26-year-old Oliver Scott after he was spotted carrying a knife in a west London street last year.

Pathologist Dr Nat Cary told the inquest that drugs had killed the former British bodybuilding champion but the CS may have contributed to his death. He said the CS, a noxious agent, could "contribute to impairment of breathing".

A report by the Department of Health has warned that people suffering from hypertension, or other cardiovascular diseases, are at particular risk.

Graham Alexander, spokes-man for the Sussex PoliceFederation, whose force does not use the spray, said: "There are nagging doubts about safety."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
SPONSORED FEATURES
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent