TASER stun guns are potentially lethal and should not be adopted by the PSNI, prominent human rights advocates have claimed. BY
A Belfast seminar on the controversial weapons which Chief Constable Hugh Orde wants to introduce was told some US police forces are rejecting the weapons on safety grounds.
Nuala O'Loan, the Police Ombudsman, told the seminar at the Stormont Hotel she would investigate every use of Tasers, should they be introduced by the PSNI.
"These weapons have to be considered as lethal force and their use would automatically be investigated," she said.
Present at the meeting were PSNI officers, members of the Northern Ireland Policing Board, the Police Ombudsman, the Oversight Commissioner, members of the Human Rights Commission, politicians, community groups, academics and members of the public.
Dalia Hashad, head of Amnesty in the US, said the PSNI should learn from the experience of American police forces. "The Taser company have spent a lot of money convincing police officers that this should be accepted as just another weapon, but as the deaths mount they will face a backlash," she warned.
According to Amnesty, 61 people died in the US after being struck by Tasers last year.
Amnesty's Northern Ireland programme director, Patrick Corrigan, said introducing Taser guns would be unfair to police officers. "It's simply not fair to ask a police officer, making a split-second decision whether to fire a Taser, to assess if the person has a heart condition or is on particular drugs, which could be factors in whether it is safe to use," he said.
"Yet, this decision could turn the police officer into an unwitting killer, while using a weapon that he or she has been told is safe."
The weapon fires two barbed darts at the subject and then transfers a five-second 50,000-volt charge into their body through an electric cable, incapacitating them for five seconds.
Chief Constable Hugh Orde announced in March he intended to introduce the weapons to Northern Ireland.