Necessity Still Breeds Ingenuity - Archive of SQUALL MAGAZINE 1992-2006

News and Other Busyness

CS Spray Given Go Ahead Despite Concerns

Squall 14, Autumn 1996, pg. 11.

TWO police forces are refusing to use CS spray because of safety fears despite the Home Office go ahead for the spray given in August. Experts have warned that CS spray could cause long term health problems, including cancer.

Over 40 forces are expected to carry the spray by the New Year. Home Secretary Michael Howard announced it was “effective and safe” in August and approved its use after a six month trial with 16 police forces.

During the trial Ibrahim Sey, 29, a Gambian asylum seeker, died in police custody after being handcuffed and sprayed. Twenty people sprayed while in a coach while returning from a Liverpool nightclub are taking civil actions; and three police officers are planning legal actions after being injured by the spray during the trial. One received 50 per cent burns to his eyes.

Researchers for Surrey police, so concerned they have ordered their own tests, say that solvents in the current sprays are inflammable and cause cancer.

Dr Mike Coleman, a poisons expert at Aston university, said current evidence pointed to the spray being unsafe. “If you’ve got a dodgy heart or asthma, or if the spray is used in a confined space, it could be fateful,” he was reported as saying.

He added that exposure to CS spray could increase the risk of cancer or cause birth defects in unborn babies.

“If you squirt CS spray at someone smoking a cigarette they’ll go up in flames,” he said.

Human rights group Liberty have called for the spray to be banned. They say the spray can cause second degree burns, blistering and permanent lung damage and is particularly harmful against sufferers of asthma.

They claim that guidelines for the police trial were breached and are concerned about a “drift towards policing by coercion rather than consent”.