Belfast Telegraph

Under fire PSNI may withdraw CS sprays
Police considering alternatives to controversial gas

By Brian Hutton
25 November 2004

The PSNI is actively considering withdrawing from use highly controversial CS gas sprays, it can be revealed today.

The toxic substance, sprayed on a person's face to incapacitate them, is being used by police around ten times a month in Northern Ireland, since it's recent reintroduction.

PSNI operational support officers, involved in research and development, are currently exploring alternatives to the hand held gas canisters.

"Police are monitoring the wider alternatives to CS incapacitant spray, as a matter of best practice," confirmed a spokesperson at PSNI headquarters today.

Police would not release details about which products are being examined.

However, one of Northern Ireland's top police officers, Superintendent Richard Russell, remarked recently that "alternatives (to CS gas) are coming on the market all the time".

Presenting his half yearly report to Derry's district policing partnership, the commander suggested pepper or pava spray, used by the Sussex police force in England, as well as in some European countries, as a possible replacement.

The PSNI is looking for "something that is the same, but has slightly different effects from CS gas" he remarked.

Already, one police officer has been suspended pending an internal PSNI investigation following an incident involving CS gas in Derry city centre.

The Police Ombudsman revealed today that she is currently investigating 38 incidents of CS spray use by the PSNI since August 5.

Nuala O'Loan's office has also received 22 complaints from members of the public about incidents involving its use.

A National Poisons Information Service report in the Emergency Medicine Journal recently suggested symptoms of CS gas could be more adverse than previously thought.

The research sparked calls for a thorough investigation into the effects of the toxic substance.

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