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Stoke City pepper-spray incident 'justified' in 'challenging situation' - police

The Bet365 Stadium, home of Stoke City.
Police used pepper spray to control a crowd of Stoke City fans during a game away against Preston North End.

Police defended their decision to use pepper spray on Stoke City fans during a game at Preston North End on Saturday but acknowledged they can learn from the incident.

A number of fans, including a 12-year-old boy, were subject to crowd-control measures during half-time of the 2-2 draw at Deepdale, leading to criticism that officers unnecessarily escalated the situation.

After a review earlier this week, Lancashire Constabulary chief superintendent Pete Lawson said the officers used the pepper spray "based on the best information available to them in an extremely challenging situation."

"Officers were confronted by a group of supporters who had been kicking at an exit door at a time when it was also reported a match steward was under attack," Lawson said in a statement, according to the Stoke Sentinel. "They acted in the honestly held belief that the threat they and others faced made the use of [the spray] justified and proportionate.

"Lessons have been learned, including key points about the difficulties that can be experienced communicating effectively in a loud and crowded environment. Although serious, this was the only incident of real concern all day and the behaviour of the vast majority of Stoke supporters was good."

A video uploaded to Twitter appears to show several police officers approaching a crowd of chanting and gesturing supporters before deciding to use the spray.

A spokesman for Stoke said the club are disappointed police consider the matter closed.

"We are surprised that they have issued the statement so quickly as it suggests they have completed their inquiry into the incident," he told the Stoke Sentinel.

"Based on our current knowledge, we are unable to agree or accept the conclusions they appear to have reached and would welcome further dialogue and investigation on the matter."

Police constable Paul Elliot, Preston's football officer, apologised to supporters for the incident after the game.

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