The Police Investigations & Review Commissioner (PIRC) has found that a police officer was justified in using a PAVA spray to subdue a man who began to struggle during his arrest.  

Commissioner Kate Frame said the use of the incapacitant spray allowed the police to gain control of the 27-year-old and arrest him quickly and safely during the incident at a public house in Annan in March 2017.

The man was later charged with a number of offences and has since been convicted of possession of an offensive weapon and resisting arrest. He received a prison sentence of 9 months.

As the court proceedings are concluded, the Commissioner can publish the findings of her investigation.

She concluded that while the use of PAVA spray was justified in the circumstances to control the man and arrest him quickly and safely, there were inaccuracies in the information provided by Police Scotland to the PIRC during the investigation.

The incident highlighted that more than a third of CS/PAVA spray referrals made to the PIRC by Police Scotland require to be returned to Police Scotland due to inaccurate or insufficient information being provided to the PIRC.

The Commissioner recommended that Police Scotland take immediate steps to ensure that officers give a full account of the circumstances surrounding officers’ use of CS/PAVA spray during arrests.

The information provided by Police Scotland to the PIRC investigation stated that:

  • The PAVA spray was deployed from a distance of approximately 1.5 metres – even though CCTV footage showed that it was discharged from a distance of about 30 centimetres from and directly, at the man.
  • No members of the public were in the area when PAVA spray was deployed – even though the CCTV footage showed that members of the public were in fact in the immediate area.                                                                            
  • No one other than the man was affected by the discharge of the PAVA spray – even though two members of the public state that they were affected by the PAVA spray.                                                                                                       
  • Aftercare was administered to persons affected by the PAVA spray - whereas the man and the other witnesses who were affected by the spray state that no aftercare was provided.   

 

Commissioner Kate Frame added:

"When police approached the man they knew he was a violent individual who routinely carried weapons.
“When he began to struggle during the arrest the discharge of the PAVA spray was justified in the circumstances, to allow officers to control the man quickly and safely.
“However, inaccuracies in the information provided to the PIRC investigation has again highlighted an ongoing problem in relation to the accuracy of information provided by Police Scotland on the CS/PAVA Spray Discharge Report.
“Throughout the last four years guidance and advice has been provided by the PIRC to Police Scotland’s Operational Safety Training (OST) Department on this issue but despite this, difficulties persist with the accuracy and sufficiency of the information provided by Police Scotland.
“This issue should be immediately addressed by Police Scotland”.

The incident happened shortly after midnight on 19 March 2017 at a public house in Annan, Dumfriesshire, when officers from Police Scotland were called to a disturbance.

They saw a man standing in the foyer area who was known to them and who they believed was wanted in relation to outstanding warrants.

When officers informed him that he was under arrest, he began to struggle with them and one of the officers then discharged PAVA spray into the man’s face. Two members of staff were also affected by the spray.

The man was handcuffed and placed into a police van where he admitted that he had taken drugs earlier that night and was now having difficulty breathing. He also informed the officers that he suffered from asthma.

He was taken to hospital where he was kept in for observations until later that day. Officers later retrieved a ‘knuckle duster’ from the floor of the police van.

The man was subsequently charged with a number of offences and later appeared in court where he pled guilty to the offences.

Notes to Editors:

Under the Police Public Order and Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 2006 as amended and the Police Investigations and Review Commissioner (Investigations, Serious Incidents and Specified Weapons) Regulations 2013, all incidents of Police Scotland’s use of firearms, including the discharge of CS/PAVA spray, must be referred to the Police Investigations and Review Commissioner (PIRC) for independent assessment