Police using CS spray as 'offensive' weapon

CS spray is being used as an offensive weapon by the police in almost four out of 10 cases, despite guidelines that it should be used primarily in self-defence.

The Police Complaints Authority (PCA), which carried out research into the use of the spray, has also expressed concerns about CS causing burns to the eyes and face and being used against mentally ill people.

A survey of police forces in England and Wales during the year ending October 1999 discovered that the spray failed to incapacitate the target in nearly one-fifth of all cases.

The report, CS Spray: Protecting the Public?, published today, examined 135 complaints against officers using the hand-held device. CS is fired an estimated 3,000 times a year since being introduced to all but three of the 43 police forces in 1998.

The reports says that in 38 per cent of the cases examined, the primary use for firing the spray was not self-defence. "In some cases the subject of the spray was certainly not posing a threat and in one or two cases was actually running away," it says.

"The 1996 guidance stresses that the use of the spray is 'primarily for self-defence'... CS spray was 'sold' to the public and to the police as a method of self-defence, albeit as a last resort."

The study coincides with the announcement today that an officer of North Wales police should be charged with abuse of authority after he was accused of using the spray unnecessarily and recklessly against a member of the public during a fight outside a fast-food takeaway in Rhyl.

The report urges police to avoid using CS on the mentally ill, a practice that has been strongly criticised by mental health charities as extremely dangerous. Six of the 135 complainants had a mental illness. The PCA report says: "CS may exacerbate the side-effects of anti-psychotic drugs - breathing problems, changes in heart rate or allergic rashes."

Surprisingly, the CS has been found to be ineffective in one in every five uses. This can often be due to the influence of alcohol and drugs, which can mask its effects.

In eight of the complaints, serious but temporary injury was caused from CS. The most common injuries were burns to the face and eyes. The burns were caused by the solvent, MIBK, used in the device, rather than the CS chemical itself.

The PCA sayscaution should be used when using the spray against a person with a firearm because it "might cause that person to fire indiscriminately".

CS spray is credited in contributing to a 19 per cent fall in the number of assaults on officers since 1996. The three forces which have not introduced CS because of concerns about public safety - Nottinghamshire, Northamptonshire and Sussex - have had assaults on officers rise by more than 10 per cent.

The PCA report concludes that "CS spray does not appear to present a serious risk to the public". Among the recommendations are for forces to review training and guidelines, paying particular attention to spraying it at close range and against the mentally ill.

The Home Office minister Charles Clarke said: "Used within strict guidelines it [CS] will continue to be one of the tools available to police officers to ensure their safety and that of the public."

Sport
The sun rises over St Andrews golf course, but will it be a new dawn for the Royal and Ancient Golf Club?
sportAnd it's Yes to women (at the R&A)
Arts and Entertainment
Friends is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year
tvSeries celebrates 20th anniversary
Sport
Yaya Touré (left) and Bayern Munich’s Spanish defender Juan Bernat
footballToure's lack of defensive work is big problem for City
Voices
voicesApple continually kill off smaller app developers, and that's no good for anyone
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson said he wouldn't
tv

Liam Neeson's Downton dreams

Sport
Wembley Stadium
footballNews follows deal with Germany
Arts and Entertainment
A spell in the sun: Emma Stone and Colin Firth star in ‘Magic in the Moonlight’
filmReview: Magic In The Moonlight
Sport
A 'Sir Alex Feguson' tattoo
football

Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear
tv

Thriller is set in the secret world of British espionage

Life and Style
life

News
ScienceGallery: Otherwise known as 'the best damn photos of space you'll see till 2015'
Life and Style
fashion

Bomber jacket worn by Mary Berry sells out within an hour

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

Volunteer your expertise as Trustee for The Society of Experimental Biology

Unpaid Voluntary Position : Reach Volunteering: Promising volunteer Trustee op...

Email Designer

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is curr...

Psychology Teacher

£110 - £130 per hour: Randstad Education Reading: Psychology Teacher needed fo...

Food Technology Teacher

£85 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: Randstad Education are curren...

Day In a Page

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
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week