A powerful committee was today set to discuss a police operation in Londonderry when the controversial Taser stun gun was used for the first time in Northern Ireland.
The Policing Board today confirmed that the Chief Constable Sir Hugh Orde had responded to a request from its chairman, Sir Des Rea, to deliver a report on what happened when the weapon was used in Derry, where a man was reported to have locked himself and his children into a house.
The report was due to be given to members of the Policing Board’s Human Rights and Professional Standards committee, meeting in Belfast this afternoon.
Last week it emerged that some members of the Policing Board only learned that the Taser had been used in Northern Ireland after the NW Telegraph revealed that it was fired to subdue the father who had locked himself and his two children into a house in the Galliagh area of Derry.
Foyle MLA Martina Anderson, who is a member of the Human Rights and Professional Standards committee, today said the mother of the man who was hit by the Taser was “very, very upset”.
Adding that she still had to learn of all the facts, she said she believed questions still had to be answered about why the weapon was used in Derry.
“I believe the circumstances for using Tasers should be the same as for lethal weapons,” she said. “I have spoken to the person and to his mother, and am trying to contact the partner.
“The use of Tasers mirrors an internationally established pattern, where they are often targeted at the vulnerable and those suffering from mental health illnesses.”
She added that the weapon was fired just weeks before the Policing Board was set to decide whether to support its use, at a meeting scheduled for September 4.
Responding to questions from the Telegraph, the PSNI confirmed last week that it was the first use of the weapon — which attaches two wires to the target and administers an electrical shock to incapacitate the person — anywhere in Northern Ireland.
There was controversy earlier this year when the PSNI revealed that it intended to use Tasers.
The police said in January that they had received permission from the Secretary of State to buy 12 Tasers, for use by specially trained officers.
The Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission claimed they could potentially violate Articles 2 and 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights concerning inhumane treatment and the right to life.
And members of the Policing Board also voiced their concerns.
But it was used in Derry on August 16, after police were called to the domestic related incident in Galliagh.
The PSNI statement to the Telegraph said: “It was reported that a man had locked himself in a house along with his two young children.
“A Taser unit was discharged by specialist firearms officers during the incident, as an appropriate and proportionate tactical option, to bring the matter to a safe conclusion.
“At around 6.50am, one 37-year-old man was arrested and was subsequently detained under the Mental Health Act.
“The children were safely returned to a family member.”