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Officers right to Taser man with sword in his trousers: Ombudsman

By Adrian Rutherford

Police were justified in Tasering a man caught walking around Belfast city centre with a samurai sword hidden in his trousers, a watchdog has said.

It was one of four incidents between 2015 and this year in which Taser stun guns were used on people.

The Police Ombudsman, Dr Michael Maguire, found that police were correct to deploy the devices in each case.

The first incident took place in central Belfast in August 2015.

The man who was Tasered, who had a sword concealed in a trouser leg, ran off and was chased by an officer.

He later complained that he had stopped and given himself up before the Taser was used against him.

However, Dr Maguire found that the officer's actions were justified, given that he was on his own in a dimly lit and narrow street and was fearful that footsteps he had heard behind him during the chase might have been accomplices of the suspect.

In addition, the officer reported that he had not been sure whether the man was stopping to give himself up, catch his breath before running off again, or prepare for an attack.

In August last year, police in Portadown used a Taser device while responding to a call from an "upset and incoherent" man who reported that he was "swinging a knife".

They found him in his living room amid damaged furniture, holding a knife and threatening to stab himself.

In November of the same year, officers Tasered a man in west Belfast to prevent him causing further injury with a shard of broken glass he had pressed against his throat.

The PSNI reported that the man was bleeding heavily from a wound to his arm and was acting aggressively while moving backwards towards passing traffic.

They said that he was Tasered to prevent him being knocked down or inflicting further injury with the broken glass.

In June this year, the device was used in Antrim town against an intoxicated male who pointed a crossbow at his head and threatened to shoot.

Officers had also been warned that he had a gun and a hunting knife.

He was Tasered when he dropped the crossbow and ran towards officers, who said they were concerned that he would reach for a weapon.

Dr Maguire found that in each instance, use of the device had been lawful, justified and proportionate, given the risks posed by the circumstances the officers faced in each situation.

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