Firework riot officers preparing legal action against Police Scotland over Niddrie Bonfire Night injuries

Dozens of officers reported hearing issues in wake of Bonfire Night attacks

Police officers who suffered hearing damage during a series of attacks in Edinburgh last year are set to take legal action against Scotland’s national force, amid allegations it failed to provide them with adequate ear protection despite having the equipment available.

At least eight officers suffered injuries after being subjected to what was described as “unprecedented levels of violence” in the city’s Niddrie area last Bonfire Night, with petrol bombs, fireworks, bottles and masonry aimed at riot police.

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Now, 1919 Magazine has reported that 34 officers reported hearing issues after being targeted with fireworks, with the Scottish Police Federation working with around 20 of those affected. It has sought legal advice from a personal injury solicitor on their behalf.

According to the magazine, funded by the federation, Police Scotland bought around 10,000 sets of sound suppressors – equipment designed to protect against noise-induced hearing loss while still allowing officers to hear conversations and police radios.

However, the magazine claims the suppressors had not been tested in time, so were not issued to officers prior to them being deployed to Operation Moonbeam, Police Scotland’s response in the lead up to Bonfire Night.

Gordon Forsyth, the federation’s health and safety assistant to the general secretary, said: “The cops were exposed to two to three hours of constant barrage of fireworks. They’re still experiencing problems. Some of them may recover, but it’s likely for a few of them it will be a permanent problem, particularly the tinnitus.

“There are some who have come back to light duties – they’re probably the worst affected. For a few of them, it’s quite significant.”

Drone footage of the violent clashes in Niddrie last November. Picture: Press Association.Drone footage of the violent clashes in Niddrie last November. Picture: Press Association.
Drone footage of the violent clashes in Niddrie last November. Picture: Press Association.

Police Scotland’s Assistant Chief Constable Tim Mairs said: “The safety of our officers and staff is our number one priority and we are committed to protecting our personnel from injury and harm while on duty. Prior to Operation Moonbeam 2023, Police Scotland purchased new noise-cancelling ear defenders, which are designed to protect our officers’ hearing without compromising their ability to hear routine sounds or conversations in a noisy environment.

“These had not been public order tested in time for use during the operation, but have since been provided to officers deployed for policing the Hogmanay street party, sporting events and other major operations.

“In total, 34 officers, who dealt with the unprecedented levels of violence and disorder experienced during last year’s Bonfire Night period, reported some issues with their hearing after being targeted by fireworks and these officers continue to be supported. A full rollout of new noise defenders is currently underway for all police officers.”

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Details of the legal advice comes after it emerged just one local authority, Glasgow, had announced a formal process for the rollout of firework control zones (FCZs). While council leaders in Edinburgh and Dundee have spoken positively about FCZs, no firm plans have yet been launched.

A spokesperson for Glasgow City Council said zones would be enforced by Police Scotland, with the council overseeing the process of designating zones in partnership with police and Scottish Fire and Rescue.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “The Government has provided local authorities with the powers to designate firework control zones within their boundaries, and we continue to provide funding for local authorities who are considering this.”