Edinburgh Bonfire Night mayhem: Police officers to launch legal actions against Police Scotland

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‘Officers suffered hearing damage from constant barrage of fireworks’

Police officers who suffered hearing damage during Bonfire Night mayhem in Edinburgh last year are preparing to take legal action against Police Scotland.

They claim the force failed to provide them with adequate ear protection, despite having the equipment. The officers were subjected to “unprecedented” levels of violence when fireworks and petrol bombs were launched at them in the Capital’s Niddrie area last November 5. At least eight were injured during the ugly scenes. Some 27 people were later charged with a total of 51 offences.

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And 1919 Magazine, which is funded by the Scottish Police Federation (SPF), today revealed that 34 officers have reported hearing issues after being targeted with fireworks. The SPF is working with around 20 of those affected and has sought legal advice from a personal injury solicitor on their behalf.

Police were targeted with fireworks, petrol bombs and other projectiles in Niddrie on Bonfire Night 2023.Police were targeted with fireworks, petrol bombs and other projectiles in Niddrie on Bonfire Night 2023.
Police were targeted with fireworks, petrol bombs and other projectiles in Niddrie on Bonfire Night 2023.

1919 Magazine said it understood that the force had bought around 10,000 sets of sound suppressors – designed to protect against noise-induced hearing loss while still allowing officers to hear conversations and listen to police radios – but these had not been tested in time so were not issued to officers deployed on Operation Moonbeam, Police Scotland’s nationwide annual response in the lead-up to Bonfire Night.

The force confirmed that issues with hearing had been reported, but said it was unaware of formal legal proceedings at this stage.

Gordon Forsyth, the SPF’s health and safety assistant to the general secretary, told 1919 Magazine: “The cops were exposed to two to three hours of constant barrage of fireworks. They’re still experiencing problems. Some of them may recover, but it’s likely for a few of them it will be a permanent problem, particularly the tinnitus.

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“There are some who have come back to light duties – they’re probably the worst affected. For a few of them it’s quite significant.”

Police Scotland Assistant Chief Constable Tim Mairs, gold commander for Operation Moonbeam, said: “The safety of our officers and staff is our number one priority and we are committed to protecting our personnel from injury and harm while on duty.

“Prior to Operation Moonbeam 2023, Police Scotland purchased new noise-cancelling ear defenders, which are designed to protect our officers’ hearing without compromising their ability to hear routine sounds or conversations in a noisy environment.

“These had not been public order tested in time for use during the operation, but have since been provided to officers deployed for policing the Hogmanay street party, sporting events and other major operations.

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“In total, 34 officers, who dealt with the unprecedented levels of violence and disorder experienced during last year’s Bonfire Night period, reported some issues with their hearing after being targeted by fireworks and these officers continue to be supported. A full rollout of new noise defenders is currently underway for all police officers.”