A CATALAN court has criticised Spain’s National Police Corps for using force against would-be voters at a Barcelona school during the October 2017 independence referendum.

The Barcelona Audience court said police had not exhausted their own protocols on the use of “non-violent means” before turning to force at the IES Pau Claris, which was being used as a polling station. It found there was no “decisive order” to voters to clear the entrances to the school and communicate the warrant officers had.

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“The police themselves infringed one of the guidelines for acting imposed in their own protocols on monitoring and controlling crowds,” the court said in a written judgment.

They were required to “exhaust non-violent means, using dialogue ... authorising the proportional and gradual use of force only when there exists no other option”.

The court rejected an appeal from the police union backed by the state’s legal service asking that voters at that polling station be investigated for resisting police.

A different court previously rejected such a move, arguing that voters could not be blamed for a situation which resulted from the “failure of the institutions”.

The court said: “Voters had gathered, covered by the exercise of fundamental rights which the [Catalan] government authorities had appealed to to legitimise the collective call to political participation.”

At Pau Claris, people who stood at the entrances attempted to hinder the access of the agents, “chanting pacifist slogans, with their hands up”, while the agents “made use of force in a direct manner”.

There were only “mere and purely defensive actions” in response to police charges.