Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 2 September 2014

Shocks and robbers

While police wait for Taser guns, local hoods are already using them

Ulster criminals appear to have beaten cops to the draw - by getting their hands on powerful 50,000-volt stun guns while the PSNI is still jumping through legal hoops to use them.

Police believe a Taser — the high tech stun gun they've spent over a year trying to get approval for — was used to threaten a shopworker during a robbery in Larne, Co Antrim.

And a similar type of stun gun was found in Belfast this week in a car driven by a man arrested for drugs offences.

That means the black market seems to have got hold of the weapon — which retails for £750 — while the PSNI waits to deploy them.

The PSNI is the only police force in the UK or Ireland currently without Tasers available to them.

Chief Constable Sir Hugh Orde told the Policing Board last year that he wants to buy a dozen Tasers to be deployed by specialist officers on the force.

But human rights campaigners around the world have objected to the use of the weapons, linking them to hundreds of deaths in North America.

The Taser fires an electrode barb, which can deliver multiple 50,000-volt shocks to the skin that temporarily disable a suspect and facilitate his arrest.

Sir Hugh argues that they would help his officers avoid using lethal force in some situations.

He recently said he dreads the day PSNI officers have to open fire with their handguns because Tasers aren't available.

After lengthy discussions with the Policing Board, Sir Hugh announced recently that he will go ahead with a pilot project to purchase the Tasers.

Meanwhile, the weapons have been linked to suspected crime.

Police say they believe a taser was used to rob a shop at Gloucester Avenue in Larne last week.

One man threatened the shop assistant with the weapon while the other used a pay point machine to obtain credits.

"Police believe a taser was used during the robbery and would like to speak to a customer who was turned away by staff at the door during the incident," a PSNI spokesman said.

And on Thursday, a similar type of weapon was found in the car of a man suspected of drugs offences.

The 22-year-old was released, and a report on possession of weapons has been filed.

Policing Board member Basil McCrea, who supports the introduction of Tasers, said the situation is "going down the line of political correctness gone mad".

"These weapons are needed to protect lives, and that includes the lives of police officers."

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