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August 14, 2013


Dan Hardie

You, and Marc Mulholland, are likely to know this one: what was the last incident that the security forces in the UK used CS gas, or similar, as a tool of crowd control? I want to say Northern Ireland in the early '70s, and no later than the late '70s.

I think it's fair to exclude the use of a small number of CS cartridges fired into an area that had been cleared of most citizens, in sieges like the arrest of some of the 21/7 bombers.

I'm also pretty sure that one of the reasons they abandoned CS was that whilst young, mobile rioters could move away from the gas, immobile people, trapped in their houses while the gas seeped in, couldn't: eg young children, babies, the elderly, and others who were likely to develop serious and sometimes fatal respiratory conditions.

I take your point about the wider context of abrogating civil liberties, etc. But do you think that widespread use of CS gas is likely to come back to the UK? I'd say no: the public might put up with a lot, and so do the courts, but I think one or two asthmatic children choking to death because the Met have fired off a lot of CS cartridges outside their house would be just a little too far.


From a quick google, Toxteth in 1981 was actually the first time CS gas was used for crowd control outside Northern Ireland. The most recent mention of its use in crowd control that I can find was in controlling a football riot in Jersey (does that count as the UK?) in 2004.
(Liverpool police used it in April, but only on one bloke, not on a crowd.)


I've got a couple of uses of the handheld spray version http://www.theguardian.com/uk/2011/feb/01/police-cs-spray-protests-inquiry but none of canisters for crowd control.

Dan Hardie

According to Wikipedia (I know, I know) the handheld version was being used at the rate of 5,000 times a year by British cops when it was first introduced in the 1990s. But it doesn't list any use of the crowd control canisters after 1972 in Northern Ireland, which is roughly what I thought. And the only time they used the canisters on the mainland, again according to Wikipedia, was, as Ajay says, in Toxteth in '81.

Not to minimise the seriousness of the handheld version, but it's the crowd control stuff that I can't see them using again, because it has literally killed vulnerable people stuck in their houses. If they do use it again, we're in serious trouble.

Igor Belanov

A football riot in Jersey???!!!

Somebody will be running under the Queen's horse at The Derby next....

Marc Mulholland

I don't actually know when they stopped using CS gas for crowd control in NI, but 1972 or '73 sounds about right.

In October 1974 it was sprayed by army helicopters on Long Kesh when convicted republican prisoners rioted and burned down a major part of the camp. Dogs were let loose on the internees but a number were burnt alive in the huts.


a number were burnt alive in the huts.

Really? In this incident?



I'm surprised that the BBC doesn't mention the deaths.

Marc Mulholland

That's the one. A number of *dogs* died, I should clarify (four, the BBC article says).


Ah. That makes sense.

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