Pepper spray used by gardaí over 500 times in 2017

Met Police and other UK forces use Tasers, which are not widely available to gardaí

Figures regarding Garda deployment of pepper spray were contained in the submission of the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission  to the Commission on the Future of Policing. File photograph: iStockPhoto

Figures regarding Garda deployment of pepper spray were contained in the submission of the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission to the Commission on the Future of Policing. File photograph: iStockPhoto

 

Gardaí used pepper spray more than 500 times last year, new figures show.

Between the beginning of the year and the first week of November, gardaí deployed incapacitant spray on at least 502 occasions.

By comparison, the London Metropolitan Police used such spray 68 times between April and June 2017, which extrapolates to 272 uses a year, roughly half of the rate of Garda discharges.

The Met polices an area with about eight million inhabitants, while the Republic of Ireland has about 4.8 million inhabitants. It employs 32,000 officers, about 19,000 more than the Garda, which has about 13,000 sworn members.

However, the Met Police and other forces in the UK also use Tasers against suspects, devices which are not widely available to gardaí outside specialised units. In 2016 the Met fired Tasers on 238 occasions, according to the latest statistics.

A Garda spokesman suggested the option of using a Taser means Met officers are be less likely to deploy pepper spray, which could explain the discrepancy in the statistics.

Statistics release declined

The Garda generally declines to release statistics relating to use of force, including the use of firearms, pepper spray and batons. However, the figures regarding pepper spray were contained in the submission of the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission (Gsoc) to the Commission on the Future of Policing.

In its submission, Gsoc complained gardaí only rarely complied with a regulation stating they must notify the Ombudsman within 48 hours of the use of Garda weapons.

“Our numbers showed as of the 7th of November, 2017, of the 502 notifications of use of incapacitant spray alone in 2017, only 33 had come within the required 48-hour period,” Gsoc stated.

Incapacitant spray was used in two incidents on October 15th, but Gsoc was not notified until December 18th – two months later.