McInnes reveals PAVA spray used at new prison

HMP Grampian is situated to the south of Peterhead.
HMP Grampian is situated to the south of Peterhead.

Staff at the new HMP & YOI Grampian used incapacitating spray on prisoners during a 14-hour siege at the facility in May - the first time the substance has been deployed in a Scottish prison.

Answers to parliamentary questions by MSP Alison McInnes, revealed that Pelargonic Acid Vanillyamide (PAVA) spray, a substance reportedly more potent than CS spray and used to stop pirates boarding cargo ships, was used on nine prisoners

Approximately £150,000 of damage was caused to the prison during the incident which led to many prisoners being transferred to other facilities.

Mrs McInnes said: “My parliamentary questions have revealed that prison staff used incapacitant spray on prisoners for the first time during the 14-hour siege at HMP & YOI Grampian earlier this year. The Scottish Prison Service has had the power to use incapacitant spray since 2007 and this is far from the first disturbance in a prison since then.

“I am therefore anxious to understand why this tactic was used on this occasion.

“I am also concerned that deploying such powerful sprays in a confined space could inadvertently affect people who were not being targeted, including police and prison staff.

“This admission serves as a reminder that while this facility is state-of-the-art compared to the former Victorian prison, it does face new challenges including a greater mix of prisoners and many new staff.

“The Scottish Prison Service must ensure that local staff have the resources, knowledge and experience they need to be able to resolve difficult situations before they go from bad to worse,” she added.

In response to Mrs McInnes’ question, Colin McConnell, chief executive of the Scottish Prison Service, said: “Pelargonic Acid Vanillyamide (PAVA) Incapacitant Spray was deployed for the first time by the Scottish Prison Service as part of the Incident Management Tactical Response to an incident in May 2014 at HMP & YOI Grampian.

“Neither SPS staff nor members of Police Scotland were incapacitated by PAVA during the incident. A total of nine prisoners were incapacitated by PAVA spray, all of whom were provided with the appropriate aftercare.

“No hospital treatment was required for any individual affected by the deployment of the substance,” he added.