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PAVA use regulations aren't strong enough, says Hartshorn

Guidance on PAVA spray needs to be tightened, the new Fed Chair has warned.

Legal protection for officers carrying PAVA spray off duty does not go far enough, the new Police Federation Chair has warned.

Existing legislation does not protect officers who transport kit between stations and could have consequences if they intervened during an incident while off-duty, Steven Hartshorn said.

Currently, officers need to get authorisation from a Chief Officer if they are not intending to return their kit to their station. The permission covers for when an officer is parading at another station the next day.

They should be covered by NPCC guidance on the use of incapacitant sprays which says officers “have lawful possession of the spray whilst off duty provided it is necessary for the purposes of police duty”.

And the National Police Chiefs’ Council have told the Federation that as long as officers have sign off from a senior officer, they would “more likely” be covered under Section 54 of the Firearms Act 1968.

But Mr Hartshorn warned “more likely” is not enough and that forces cannot guarantee that an officer would not be prosecuted for carrying the spray while off-duty.

In an article for the Metropolitan Police Federation’s newsletter London Beat completed before his election as Chair, Mr Hartshorn said that with officers under pressure already, they needed certainty they remained within the law.

He said: “It’s vital not only for the police officers who may be asked to possess a Section 5 firer (Taser or PAVA spray) off duty for a lawful policing purpose, it is crucial that the public have confidence that they do so lawfully.

“A policy – no matter how well intentioned – based on ‘more likely’ to provide legal protection is, in my opinion, not good enough.”

He added the Federation wants the laws overhauled to reflect the reality facing officers, particularly those in cities who are subject to changes of location due to operational demand.

He said: “The work PFEW is doing to have the legislation changed should bring clarity in law and certainty that policing is operating within the law to keep the public safe.”

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