‘Using CS spray on school pupil was only choice’- Ombudsman

Police Ombudsman Dr Brian Maguire.  (DER2913JB31)
Police Ombudsman Dr Brian Maguire. (DER2913JB31)

The Police Ombudsman has said that the PSNI use of CS spray on a 14-year-old schoolboy at Oakgrove College was the ‘only alternative’

The incident happened at the Waterside school on January 7 after police responded to an emergency call about a pupil causing a disturbance at the school. Police found the pupil in an agitated state and bleeding profusely from his hand, having punched through a glass window.

The Ombudsman, Dr Brian Maguire ordered a police investigation into their action because of the age of the boy involved. in the report Dr Maguire described the use of the CS spray on the teenager as “necessary”.

Dr Maguire said the police officer who used the spray tried to calm the boy after being pushed and threatened. Dr Maguire also said that a warning was issued before the spray was used.

“This young man had already hurt himself, was bleeding quite badly and needed a medical attention. He had also threatened the officer and other efforts to pacify him seemed to have failed. The officer said he feared for the boy’s safety and the safety of others and had no alternative. No-one who saw what happened, including the boy himself, os questioning the judgement,” the Ombudsman said.

The Commissioner for Children and Young People, Patricia Lewsley-Mooney described the use of CS spray as “concerning”.

“As Children and Young People’s Commissioner, it is concerning that this type of restraint on a child is necessary.

“I am seeking further information and plan to raise this issue at a meeting with the PSNI,” she said.

During the Ombudsman’s investigation, the police officers involved, school staff and witnesses at the school, the boy and his parents were interviewed.

After the boy was arrested he was treated for the effects of CS spray and was taken to Strand Road police station for interview in the presence of an older family member.

The report also said the boy involved apologised to the officer responsible and his parents said they understood why the action was necessary.

Sprayed from hand held canisters it causes eye pain, a burning sensation to the throat and nose, chest tightness, sneezing and coughing and wretching. It is the most commonly used variant of ‘tear gas’ in the world used to incapacitate people.