Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 23 August 2014

Failed court bid to ban police Tasers ‘a waste of money’

A legal bid to ban PSNI officers from using Taser stun guns has been criticised for being a waste of money and court time.

Northern Ireland's most senior judge, Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan, yesterday rejected a legal attempt to prevent police from using Tasers.

He also refused to grant an order to overturn decisions of the Policing Board to support the Chief Constable over deployment.

DUP Policing Board member Jimmy Spratt said the case was a “complete waste of money”.

He added that he was delighted with the court judgment which “vindicates the PSNI’s very stringent rules and regulations around the use of Tasers.”

Mr Spratt said: “Whether we like it or not, it is necessary to have some restraining equipment in place to protect the human rights of the innocent members of the public and police officers.”

The challenge to the use of tasers was brought by a Belfast girl whose grandmother was killed by a police plastic bullet in the 1980s.

Lawyers for the child, who was not identified, argued that a proper equality impact assessment was not carried out, and Tasers breached the “right to life and right to freedom from torture”.

At Belfast High Court yesterday Sir Declan rejected a claim that the Policing Board was wrong to decide introducing Tasers was an operational decision for the Chief Constable.

The judge also declared himself “entirely satisfied” that the decision to deploy the weapons on a pilot basis was well within the range of rational decisions open to the Chief Constable.

He pointed out that police proposals had been discussed with the board and the Equality Commission, leading to a decision to conduct an equality impact assessment.

The child is the granddaughter of a woman killed in disputed circumstances in July 1981 by a plastic bullet fired by police.

She was said to have fears a similar fate might befall her mother.

But Sir Declan ruled: “There is no suggestion that the effects or operational guidance in relation to the these weapons is similar.

“Plastic bullets were designed to be used in situations of public disorder. The operational guidance in relation to tasers indicates that they should never be used in such circumstances.”

The court was told the child lives in an area of west Belfast where a notorious feud has been ongoing between two families.

The judge said: “There is no material to indicate any circumstances in which this child was or might be in a situation which might lead to the deployment of a taser in her vicinity.”

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