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Police use of pepper spray, tasers and baton rounds on woman in Belfast justified, Ombudsman finds


She crouched down against a wall close to the train line

She crouched down against a wall close to the train line

She crouched down against a wall close to the train line

Police were justified in using pepper spray, tasers and baton rounds on a woman to prevent her from harming herself, the Ombudsman has found.

The incident happened on November 6, 2018, when police received a call about a woman walking near train lines in east Belfast.

Officers arrived on the scene and tried to communicate with the woman, who had a knife, but received no response.

Armed response officers were deployed and when they arrived the woman was crouched down against a wall close to the train line with her head bowed and the knife held to her throat.

Trains in the area were stopped and police negotiators encouraged the woman to drop the knife, however after around two hours the woman had still made no response.

Officers told Police Ombudsman investigators they had grown increasingly concerned for her welfare as she seemed not to be reacting to changing weather conditions and her breathing was barely noticeable.

The use of pepper spray was authorised, however it proved "ineffective" after two discharges. The use of a taser was then approved. Despite being fired twice, the woman did not react.

Finally, the use of AEP (Attenuated Energy Projectile) impact rounds, also known as baton rounds, was authorised. The woman did not respond after being hit by the first round, however when the second round struck her she opened her hand and dropped the knife.

Police officers provided aftercare before ambulance staff took over and brought the woman to hospital.

The Police Ombudsman investigator found the officers' accounts of the incident matched police records, body camera footage and police radio transmissions.

The woman's family said she received extensive bruising as a result of the AEP rounds, but suffered no lasting injury. No complaint was made by the woman or her family about the officers' use of force. It is normal procedure for the ombudsman to investigate police use of weapons.

Marie Anderson, the Ombudsman, noted the officers employed a graduated response, only using greater levels of force when lesser options had failed.

Ms Anderson concluded the police had used force to protect life and their actions were reasonable and proportionate and in line with police guidelines.

Belfast Telegraph