The Police Investigations and Review Commissioner (PIRC) has found that the use of PAVA irritant spray on a 39-year-old man during a violent struggle in a police cell was both necessary and proportionate. 

The man had been arrested by officers after an alleged assault on two members of the public on 16 November 2018. During that arrest, he resisted violently and kicked an officer in the head.

He was taken to Fraserburgh Police Station and while trying to put him into a cell, he again struggled violently and grabbed hold of a police officer’s body armour causing them both to fall over.

He refused to release his grip on the officer and another officer discharged PAVA into the man’s face. This had little or no effect and the officer sprayed the man again which resulted in him releasing his grip of the officer he had been holding on to. He was then secured in the cell. Police Scotland referred the incident to the PIRC on 19 November 2018. 

The man was charged with a number of offences and later convicted.

In a second incident involving the use of PAVA irritant spray on a 27-year-old man on a scaffolding tower, the PIRC found that the discharge was not necessary or proportionate and increased the risk to both the man and the officer.

The incident occurred on 31 October 2018 in Portobello, Edinburgh, when police officers tried to arrest the man on two apprehension warrants.

As the officers approached the man, he ran away from them and climbed about 25 feet up a scaffolding tower. An officer climbed the tower in an attempt to arrest him. He grabbed the man’s legs to try and stop him climbing higher but the man kicked out at the officer and tried to hit him with an object. The officer then discharged PAVA spray at the man.

However when the spray was discharged, both the officer and the man were balanced about 25 feet up the scaffolding tower. The PIRC report said that the use of the PAVA spray in the circumstances increased the risk both to the man and the officer and was not necessary or proportionate.

Police Scotland referred the incident to the PIRC on 5 November 2018.

The Commissioner has recommended that Police Scotland should advise the officers involved in the incident of the importance of taking cognisance of location, risk and circumstance when considering using PAVA spray. 

You can read each of the reports, published today (25 April 2019) and their findings here.