Letter: CS spray and the mentally ill

WORKING FOR one of the few police forces that do not routinely carry or use CS spray, I would agree with the Maudsley Hospital Report that the use of the spray to subdue mentally ill people is sometimes "inappropriate". (Report, 2 August). However, I would strongly support my colleagues' right to defend themselves and the public, if faced with violence, by using whatever means are appropriate, including CS spray if necessary.

Police officers are not trained psychiatrists and, if faced with physical attack, do not have the expertise, or the luxury of time, to determine whether their attacker is mentally ill.

The use of CS spray on NHS premises to "quieten patients" highlights the inadequacies in primary healthcare provisions for the mentally ill. Presumably, there is nothing to stop such hospitals refusing police permission to use CS spray on their premises.

The death of PC Nina MacKay (fatally stabbed by a paranoid schizophrenic last year) served further to illustrate the dangers police officers can face when dealing with dangerous mentally ill offenders. Certainly CS spray is not appropriate in all circumstances, but its use is preferable to possible longer term injuries and fatalities.

Mike Rumble

Sussex Police

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