A Scottish police force has been defending its use of CS spray to bring a courtroom brawl under control.
Northern Constabulary officers used the spray – delivered to them just last month – when furious protesters caused a disturbance at Portree Sheriff Court on Skye.
The drama unfolded on Monday after 34-year-old Nicholas Walker appeared before the court for sentencing on sex charges.
Walker, of St Albans, Hertfordshire, admitted taking and possessing indecent photographs of children aged between four and 13 at various places between June 1999 and August 2000.
Trouble broke out among relatives and friends of the victims when he appeared in the dock.
Before Sheriff Noel MacPartlin could pass sentence a man in the public gallery succeeded in pulling Walker from the dock. Other people then joined in the disturbance.
A police spokeswoman said an officer used the spray on one man who reached the dock amid fears the group would try and attack Walker.
She said: “There was commotion in the court, they were 12 people shouting and jeering.”
She described the scene in the small court as “mayhem” and said one of the four police officers present needed to use CS spray to control the situation.
The spokeswoman said: “They had no choice because there was the risk that all the others would become involved.
“CS spray contains a situation very quickly. The officers did try to contain the situation by drawing their batons but it would be difficult to use them in a contained space so they decided to use the spray.”
The sheriff order that the court be cleared for one hour and the man sprayed was arrested and taken to a police station.
One police officer suffered minor hand and facial injuries but this was not because of the spray.
Walker, who used to live on Skye, was jailed for three months.
Acting Chief Inspector John MacDonald, area co-ordinator for Ross, Cromarty and Skye, also defended his officers.
He said: “This incident had potentially serious consequences and the officer involved had no alternative but to use CS spray.
“This helped bring the situation under control swiftly. The man arrested was seen by a doctor who confirmed that he has no injuries.
“A report will be submitted to the procurator fiscal at Portree regarding the matter.”
Following the initial disturbance, another man was arrested at the court for an alleged breach of the peace.
Less than an hour later a further disturbance involving a number of people took place at Portree Police Station where CS spray was again used to bring the situation under control.
One man was sprayed and he was also arrested for an alleged breach of the peace.
He was seen by a doctor but was not injured.
All three men allegedly involved in the disturbances were charged with breach of the peace.