Liverpool

Merseyside Police CS face spray man awarded £4,000

A schizophrenic man who suffered burns when a police officer sprayed him in the face with CS spray has been awarded £4,000 in compensation.

David Johnston, 39, from Kirkby, took legal action against Merseyside Police after the incident in January 2006.

He was sprayed in the face, neck, ears and chest by officers who found him in a distressed state at a friend's home.

Merseyside Police said the case was defended because it believed the officer had acted appropriately.

Mr Johnston won his civil case at Liverpool County Court on Thursday following a four-day hearing. The compensation figure was decided on Monday.

The court heard that Mr Johnston's friend had alerted the ambulance service over concerns for his welfare on 8 January 2006.

In accordance with standard practice the operator also called the police, who attempted to detain Mr Johnston by using CS spray at close range - despite the fact he was holding out his hands in submission.

He suffered blistering to the skin and was treated in hospital.

The jury found that the amount of force used by the police on Mr Johnston was unreasonable.

Iain Gould, of David Phillips and Partners Solicitors, said: "This case is a stark reminder to police officers that CS gas is a potent weapon that should only be deployed when an officer is faced with violence or the threat of violence."

Mr Gould said the actions of the officer had "exacerbated a delicate situation and only served to harm Mr Johnston".

"It raises real concerns as to the actions of the officer that night and the adequacy of training in the use of CS gas."

Further action

Responding to the verdict, Supt Mike Shaw, of Merseyside Police's Professional Standards Department, said the force sought to treat all individuals with "fairness, dignity and respect".

"All allegations of misconduct are thoroughly investigated and where appropriate robust action is taken," he said.

"Adverse reactions to CS spray, such as the one experienced by Mr Johnston, are very rare.

"All claims brought against the force are thoroughly investigated by the professional standards department and, in accordance with legal advice, we defend all cases where we believe we have acted appropriately.

"We respect the decision of the court and will review whether any further action is necessary."

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