28. Deputy Eoin Ó Broin asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the position regarding the use of pepper spray by An Garda Síochána; the reporting mechanisms for same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42374/18]
Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Charles Flanagan): As the Deputy will be aware, at an operational level, incapacitant, or pepper, spray is one of a number of tactical options which are available for deployment by Garda personnel. The function of using less than lethal weapons is for circumstances where it is necessary to avoid the use of firearms. The use of firearms is permitted only to repel serious attacks on Gardaí, members of the public or property, or in the arrest or re-arrest of persons involved in serious offences.
Less lethal weapons are not routinely carried by the Garda members authorised to use them as their deployment is intended for critical incidents. The criteria applied to the use of less lethal weapons is, therefore, intentionally strict so as to limit their use in daily operations. However, I believe it is important that An Garda Síochána have at their disposal the necessary tools to ensure the safety of the public at large, and the Garda members themselves. On this basis, I work closely with the Garda Commissioner to ensure that sufficient resources are put at his disposal so as to successfully execute the work of the force.
In order to monitor and control the use of such weapons, I am informed that a system of reporting incidents of use is in place both internally within An Garda Síochána and externally via a reporting mechanism with the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission.
In the first instance, the use of Incapacitant Spray must be initially reported to the member’s immediate supervisor where such use occurs other than in training. This must also be reported prior to the conclusion of the member’s tour of duty and an incident report on the matter leading to the weapon’s use created on the Garda computer system.
With regards the reporting of incidents involving the use of incapacitating spray to GSOC, I have been advised that other than in training or in the humane destruction of animals, and which do not result in the death of, or serious harm to a person, these incidents must be notified to GSOC within 48 hours by the District Officer for the area where the incident occurred.
The process for this notification is set out in Garda HQ Directive 10/2010 which came into effect on 26 January 2010. This directive requires members of An Garda Síochána to notify GSOC of the discharge of a firearm, or less lethal device, including Incapacitant Spray, within 48 hours using an Annex 2 Notification. This notification must be signed off by the local District Officer prior to being forwarded to the Ombudsman Commission. Questions Nos. 29 and 30 answered with Question No. 25.