22 July 2004 Edition

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Policing Board approved use of CS Spray

The Police Ombudsman is to investigate the use of CS gas spray by the PSNI in Derry two weekends ago. Nuala O'Loan's office will investigate whether the use of the controversial CS Incapacitant Spray was justified after receiving two complaints in connection with an incident in the early hours of Sunday 11 July.

Paul O'Connor of the Pat Finucane Centre (PFC) in Derry said a number of people were sprayed and two in particular received serious burns to their neck.

"While two formal complaints have been made to the Police Ombudsman in relation to the issue, more will be recieved in the coming days," her said.

A second man has come forward claiming members of the PSNI sprayed him with the gas while he was handcuffed in Waterloo Place. His complaint comes just days after a 32-year-old man complained that he suffered burns to his face and neck after being sprayed with the gas by the PSNI.

O'Connor revealed the PFC and the Committee on the Administration of Justice (CAJ) are seeking a meeting with the Policing Board, after discovering it approved the introduction of CS Spray.

Responding to a letter sent by both organisations, PSNI chief Duncan McCausland made it clear the Policing Board gave the weapon its blessing after consultation with the Police Ombudsman.

"The PSNI did not consult with any Human Rights body regarding CS Spray, as has been claimed, and we now have it from the horse's mouth that it was the Policing Board who sanctioned the use of this weapon at a meeting in February 2003," said O'Connor.

"It appears they have approved the use of a very dangerous weapon without proper consultation and before any guidelines were drawn up. The board has a lot of questions to answer."

Meanwhile it has emerged that a human rights lawyer for the Policing Board is carrying out a review into all public order equipment used by the PSNI, including CS Spray. It is not believed the investigation is in response to the incidents in Derry.

The report is due out in the Autumn.

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