Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 28 August 2014

20 Taser deployments 'justified'

The Police Ombudsman found all the Taser uses he examined to be justified

Investigations into the firing of police Tasers in Northern Ireland have found that the weapon was deployed proportionately on each occasion.

Police Ombudsman Al Hutchinson said the actions of the PSNI were compliant with guidelines in the 20 incidents he has examined since the electric stun-gun was introduced three years ago.

Every time an officer discharges the controversial weapon the action is referred to the ombudsman to independently review whether its use was justified.

From January 2008 to September last year there were 29 incidents when specially trained officers fired a Taser at an individual. Mr Hutchinson has completed investigations into 20 of these episodes. He said each time the weapon was fired a member of the public was in danger of harming themselves or others.

"I am aware that the introduction of Tasers to Northern Ireland was and remains a contentious issue," said the ombudsman. "Our role is to independently investigate each of these individual incidents based on the available evidence."

The ombudsman's office has published a report analysing Taser discharge in the last three years. Among the trends identified was that the majority of the 29 incidents were at a domestic residence and most took place in the early hours of the morning.

"Our purpose in publishing this document has been to make available accurate information which can inform public thinking," explained Mr Hutchinson.

"In each of the 20 instances investigated so far, the actions of police were proportionate to the threat being presented. There was a clear risk that a member of the public was going to harm themselves or others.

"While the officer's actions in each of these events were correct, it is important that this office continues to investigate each use of Taser," he said.

The ombudsman made a number of recommendations about how police may improve their practices in this area. He suggested that officers trained to use the weapon be distributed between rural and city areas to minimise any delay in them getting to the scene of an incident.

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