Northern Ireland

Belfast parade: Officer used CS spray 'after being attacked', PSNI say

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Media captionThe incident happened during a junior Orange Order parade on the Ormeau Road.

Police used CS spray during a junior Orange Order parade in Belfast after coming under attack by adult band members, a senior officer has said.

The spray was used during a return parade on the Ormeau Road on Tuesday.

The PSNI said two officers received minor injuries during a "minor disturbance". A 26-year-old man has been charged with assault.

The parade's organiser, Noel Liggett, said the spray caused children to have swollen eyes and lips.

He said there were "shocking scenes" and he questioned "the common sense" of police action.

Speaking to the BBC's Nolan Show, Ch Supt Chris Noble denied that any children were directly in contact with the spray.

In a later statement, he said the use of CS spray "is tightly scrutinised within the PSNI and officers use their judgement when it comes to a graduated response to any threat that they may come under".

"As is standard procedure, the Police Ombudsman has been informed in regard to the use of CS incapacitant spray," he added.

"We welcome the Ombudsman's investigation and we will co-operate fully with their enquiries.

"Any subsequent contact any children or young people had with CS spray particles is deeply regretted.

"Senior colleagues were in communication with community representatives and politicians last night following the incident and I would be happy to meet with any band members, organisers or anyone in the local community who have concerns about this incident in the days ahead."

First Minister Arlene Foster said she has spoken to the chief constable over the incident.

Supt Darrin Jones told Good Morning Ulster that two neighbourhood officers were escorting the parade along the road on Tuesday. It was returning from a Junior Orange Order parade in Carrickfergus, County Antrim.

"As they were going up the road, they (the band) were coming into contact with some parked cars or cars that were being diverted off the route," he said.

"The officer at the time, who is a neighbourhood officer, was trying to resolve the situation and trying to nudge members of the band on to the road to keep them from damaging the cars.

Image copyright PA
Image caption First Minister Arlene Foster said she would also be meeting senior police over the incident

"At some stage, a couple of members of that band attacked that officer, and in doing so he drew his baton to protect himself.

"The officer in front, on a motorcycle, saw what was happening, got off to assist his colleague and was again set upon by other members of the band.

"Because of the numbers and because they were isolated, one of the officers felt it was proportionate and reasonable to draw his CS spray and use it at those who were attacking him."

Supt Jones said that a referral on the incident had been made to the police ombudsman and he appealed "to anyone in the band or any passers-by" to give a statement to the ombudsman.

Earlier, Mr Liggett told Good Morning Ulster that the CS spray was "indiscriminately" used after police confronted the parade.

'Serious incident'

He said it was "completely false" that cars were being damaged as the parade made its way up the road.

"We have a situation where we put adults between the children and the cars, this police officer seemed to think by this action we were causing damage to cars which was not the case.

"The police officer, I would hope he took it upon himself, decided he would turn around and draw his baton, confront the parade and start pushing members across the road."

He said a number of children were caught up in a "very serious incident" after the spray was used.

"Around 20 children were on parade with us yesterday, the average age would be six, seven, eight and nine," he said.

"I was quite shocked to see many young children in a state of shock.

"Five of them had suffered the effect of CS gas and a number of young children in the band had also suffered the effects of the gas."

He added that a "very frank meeting where both sides put their case" was held with police after the parade.

A man will appear at Belfast Magistrates Court on Tuesday, 26 April charged with disorderly behaviour and two counts of assault on police.

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