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Tear Gas

Volume 174: debated on Monday 18 June 1990

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To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) what regulations and guidelines he issues governing the use of tear gas in cases of civil disorder;(2) what information he has as to which constabularies hold supplies of tear gas and as to what standing orders govern its use.

For guidance on the use of CS by the police in situations of serious public disorder I refer the hon. Member to the reply given by my right hon. Friend the then Home Secretary to a question from my hon. Friend for Lancashire, West (Mr. Hind) on 19 May 1986 at columns 15–16. This explained that revised guidelines on the use of CS and baton rounds to deal with serious public disorder had been issued to all chief officers of police in England and Wales and that they covered the following points:

CS or baton rounds are to be used only with the express authority of the chief officer of police (or in his absence his deputy) under the direction and control of a designated senior officer, and by police officers who have been trained in the use of the equipment and know its characteristics.
CS or baton rounds are to be used only as a last resort where conventional methods of policing have been tried and failed, or must from the nature of the circumstances be unlikely to succeed if tried; and where there is risk of loss of life, or serious injury (or widespread destruction of property such that there is, or is judged to be, a sufficiently serious risk of loss of life or serious injury to justify the use of baton rounds or CS); and where the use of CS and baton rounds is judged as necessary because it is likely to reduce the risk. An oral warning is to be given to the crowd to disperse before CS or baton rounds are used. Once the use of baton rounds has begun the need to continue use is to be assessed continuously. Particular caution is to be taken over the use of baton rounds for offensive purposes.
If a chief officer is not present at the scene, he must be satisfied from reports that the criteria for use set out above have been met. In such circumstances, before the chief officer's authority for use is put into effect, a designated senior officer should satisfy himself at the scene that the criteria are met.
After each operational firing of baton rounds, a report on the circumstances of the incident in which they were fired is to be made to the Home Secretary.
Only CS equipment and baton rounds and launchers of a type authorised by the Home Office are to be used for these purposes.
Nothing in the guidelines affects the principle, to which section 3 of the Criminal Law Act 1967 gives effect, that only such force as is reasonable in the circumstances must be used. The degree of force justified will vary according to the circumstances of each case.
These guidelines remain in force.I understand that the following police forces in England and Wales hold CS for public order purposes:

Avon and SomersetLeicestershire
City of LondonMetropolitan
DerbyshireNorth Wales
Dyfed-PowysSouth Yorkshire
Greater ManchesterSussex
HertfordshireWest Midlands