Investigation launched over pepper spray use

File picture: Getty

File picture: Getty

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A POLICE watchdog has launched an investigation after an officer discharged pepper spray at a man in Edinburgh earlier this year.

The Police Investigations and Review Commissioner (PIRC) have been instructed by the Crown to investigate the incident, which took place on January 11 and involved a 22-year-old male. It is understood such investigations are commonplace after pepper spray is used.

PIRC said it was unable to give any further details about the incident, due to the ongoing investigation, but have said it was an incapacitant spray known as PAVA that was involved.

A spokeswoman for PIRC said: “The Police Investigations and Review Commissioner has been instructed by the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) to carry out an investigation into an incident in Edinburgh on 11 January 2016 involving a 22-year-old man where an incapacitant spray known as Captor PAVA was discharged by an officer of ­Police Scotland.

“A report on the Commissioner’s findings will be submitted to the COPFS in due course.”

PAVA is a form of pepper spray used to minimise a person’s capacity for resistance, without prolonging their discomfort. If aimed at the face, it primarily affects the eyes, causing pain and the eyes to close.

Cameron Rose, a local councillor who formerly served as a police officer, said that pepper spray was an effective way of “diffusing a violent situation”.

He said: “Pepper spray is a generally safe way of diffusing a violent situation. The police have moved to using it as a more effective and cheaper replacement to CS spray.

“There will be strict rules about its use by police officers and it is illegal for private citizens to carry or use it, as it is effectively classed as a firearm.”

A Police Scotland spokeswoman said: “We are aware that the PIRC is investigating an incident in Edinburgh where PAVA spray was discharged by an officer, and whilst this investigation is ongoing it would be inappropriate to comment further.”

It is the second time this month the PIRC is reported to have been investigating Police Scotland over an Edinburgh incident. An investigation is under way after a man’s body was discovered in his Southside flat a full week after concerns for his welfare were initially raised by neighbours.