Police ordered to address report 'inaccuracies'

12 April 2018, 17:18 | Updated: 12 April 2018, 17:20


A watchdog investigation into police use of incapacitant spray during an arrest had found "inaccuracies" in information provided by the force.

The Police Investigations and Review Commissioner (Pirc) said more than a third of similar cases they investigate need to be returned to Police Scotland "due to inaccurate or insufficient information" from the force.

Commissioner Kate Frame has told the police chiefs to take immediate action to address the problem, which she said has been ongoing for four years.

Her call follows a Pirc investigation into police use of Pava spray, similar to pepper spray, to subdue a man struggling during arrest at a pub in Annan on March 19, 2017.

Pirc found the use of the spray was justified but highlighted concerns around inaccuracies in information provided by officers.

Police told Pirc the man was sprayed from a distance of around 1.5 metres, no members of the public were in the area and no one except the man being arrested was affected by the spray.

However, the watchdog said CCTV footage shows the spray was discharged directly at the man being arrested from a distance of around 30 centimetres.

The footage also showed members of the public were in the immediate area and the two staff members said they were affected by the spray.

Police claimed aftercare was given to those affected but the man being arrested and others caught by the spray said this was not the case.

Ms Frame said use of the spray on the 27-year-old, who was later charged and is now serving a nine-month sentence for possession of an offensive weapon and resisting arrest, allowed police to arrest him quickly and safely.

She said: "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."

A Police Scotland spokeswoman said: "Police Scotland acknowledges the findings of the Police Investigations and Review Commissioner (Pirc), the most significant element of which is the officer involved was justified in the use of Pava spray to bring this incident under control.

"Significant engagement has been carried out between Police Scotland and Pirc regarding the submission of CS/Pava spray reports.

"This has led to positive action in amending the process to ensure the information provided is accurate and adequate, allowing the Pirc to make an assessment as to whether or not the circumstances merit independent investigation."