Edson Da Costa inquest: Spraying CS gas ‘no riskier than water pistol’, court hears

Edson Da Costa. Picture: Submitted

Edson Da Costa. Picture: Submitted - Credit: Archant

An ex-police officer compared getting pepper sprayed in the face to being hit by a water pistol at the inquest into the death of a man who was targeted with it.

Edir Da Costa, also known as Edson, of Wilton Way, Hackney, was stopped by police on the Woodcocks estate in Beckton on June 15, 2017.

Four officers tried to handcuff him with one aiming CS gas at his face. Edson later became unresponsive with wraps of class-A drugs found in his mouth.

The 25-year-old car trader died in hospital six days later.

Ian Read, lead safety training officer with the Met, told a jury at Walthamstow Coroner's court today (Wednesday) that there were "pros and cons" to its use as a restraint technique but it was not a "last resort tactic".

Mr Read, on the risks of using it, said: "If it gets in the eye, there's an increased risk, but no more risk than a water pistol or power shower hitting the eye.

"There's a potential for causing injury but it is very unlikely."

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The jury heard that police guidelines recommend using CS spray one metre from a suspect, but Edson has been sprayed about a pen's length away from his face as he was being pinned to the ground.

Three of the unnamed officers involved in Edson's restraint had said the spray was used before noticing he had drugs in his mouth, although one recalled mention of the drugs then the young father being sprayed.

Mr Read said: "If you are restraining somebody and they have drugs in their mouth, it's probably not appropriate to spray that person with CS unless they are holding a weapon or knife."

The jury heard that at the time the officers involved did not know whether Edson had a weapon on him.

On the decision to use the spray, Mr Read said: "It's a very quick decision you have to make. [Officers] have to consider their own safety, their own fears and the duty of care to [the person they may use it on]."

The court heard that the officers did not see Edson put the drugs in his mouth but did see some come out while he was on the ground as officers attempted to restrain him.

Senior coroner Nadia Persaud asked Mr Read whether the officers should have asked Edson if he was choking when they noticed drugs come out of his mouth and that he had not said anything.

Mr Read said: "There's no indication he was choking. He may have been by to me there's no indication, but that's not to say he wasn't."

Asked whether officers should have checked if he was choking, Mr Read said it was not covered in officer safety training and that to check in what became a 'chaotic' situation would have been difficult.

The inquest continues.