Irritant spray 'risk' in scaffold arrest

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PAVA spray is an incapacitant, similar to pepper spray, which mainly affects the eyes.
Image caption,
PAVA spray is an incapacitant, similar to pepper spray, which mainly affects the eyes.

Police officers have been told that the use of PAVA spray on a man who climbed a scaffolding tower to evade arrest was "not necessary or proportionate".

The Police Investigations and Review Commissioner (Pirc) said the use of the irritant spray increased the risk to both the man and the officer.

The incident occurred on 31 October last year in the Portobello area of Edinburgh.

Officers tried to arrest the 27-year-old man over two warrants.

As they approached him, the man ran off and climbed about 25ft (7.6m) up a scaffolding tower.

Grabbed legs

A police officer climbed the tower and grabbed the man's legs to try to stop him climbing higher.

The man kicked out at the officer and tried to hit him with an object, the Pirc report said.

The officer then discharged PAVA, an incapacitant similar to pepper spray, at the man.

The Pirc report said PAVA could cause disorientation, pain and make someone close their eyes.

It said the use of the spray when both the officer and the man were balanced about 25ft up the scaffolding tower was a risk to both men.

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

The report said the 27-year-old man was able to evade arrest at the time but was later held and charged.

'Resisted violently'

A second Pirc report found that the use of PAVA 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.

The Pirc report said 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.

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