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Sam Boal/
non lethal force

Gardaí used pepper spray more than 250 times so far this year

There have been eight instances of Taser use and one report of use of a firearm.

GARDAÍ HAVE USED pepper spray more than 250 times so far this year, according to figures released by the Minister for Justice.

Responding to a parliamentary question from TD Tommy Broughan, Minister Charlie Flanagan revealed that over the course of 2018, pepper spray was used 687 times, tasers were used 31 times and firearms were used four times.

So far this year there have been 257 reports of pepper spray being used, eight instances of Taser use and one report of use of a firearm.

Under a Garda Síochána directive, garda management is required to notify the Garda Ombudsman’s office of the discharge of a firearm or less than lethal device within 48 hours of the event occurring.

The figures provided by the minister were the numbers reported to Gsoc under this directive.

The Garda Representative Association (GRA) has long been calling for the roll-out of Tasers to all frontline officers. Currently, frontline members are equipped with pepper spray, but only specialist units have access to Tasers.

An average of 12 gardaí a week are injured on duty and the GRA has said the number of assaults on members would reduce if equipment like Tasers and bodycams were introduced, as they have been in other jurisdictions.

Last year the Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL) expressed concern about the garda use of force. A report noted gardaí are likely to use pepper spray at a higher rate than the Metropolitan Police or the PSNI and stated that there was a lack of statistics available.

The report recommended recording all circumstances of deployments of weapons or use of force, together with an explanation of the circumstances, location of use, outcome and the identity of the gardaí involved.

Policing Authority member Vicky Conway also made reference today to this higher rate of pepper spray use:

“The Met also used batons 557 times, but we don’t have such a number of gardaí. Between firearms, Taser and pepper spray, An Garda Síochána 722, Met 895 – Met having twice the population, Conway said. 

She said this “suggests police use more weapons in Ireland”. 

It was revealed earlier this year that An Garda Síochána failed to notify Gsoc about more than half of Taser discharges within the required 48-hour period.

Broughan said he has been recently calling for greater resources to the gardaí and “more action from the government on rising instances of serious crime in Dublin”.

“However, it is also important to have transparency around the work of our gardaí and I would have expected some further explanations around the use of these measures which is why I asked the minister for a statement on the matter also.”

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