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Police apologise after tasering blind man but say decision was 'appropriate'

Police have said officers made "what appeared to be an appropriate decision" when they tasered an unarmed blind man after mistaking his cane for a gun.

Greater Manchester Police (GMP) Assistant Chief Constable Garry Shewan said the blind man was thought to be "acting in an agitated manner and, in the dark, the folded cane appeared to be a gun".

Police were called to reports of a man with a gun on Albert Road, Levenshulme, on Thursday shortly after 6.40pm.

Armed response officers attended, a Taser was deployed and a 43-year-old man was detained.

Mr Shewan said: "An officer decided that in the circumstances, and to ensure the safety of the man and public, he should deploy a Taser.

"An initial review of the incident leads us to believe the experienced firearms officers carried out a suitable risk assessment and, with the information he had available at the time, made what appeared to be an appropriate decision.

"The man was uninjured during the incident and today officers have been with him, and have now apologised for what happened.

"The man has accepted our apology and does not wish to make a complaint however we will continue to review the situation.

"Our officers have explained why a Taser was deployed and the man acknowledged that his behaviour could have led to people being concerned.

"We regret that a Taser was used on an unarmed person and will continue to review our training in light of this incident."

In 2012, a blind man was tasered in Lancashire after his white stick was mistaken for a Samurai sword.

The man was walking in Chorley town centre on the way to meet friends at a pub when he was tasered and then handcuffed.

Shopkeeper Tasawar Dar, who runs the Discount Master convenience store on Albert Road in Levenshulme, told the Manchester Evening News he saw armed police arriving at the scene.

He said: "I heard the police here and they shouted, 'lie down on the ground', and there was the bark of a dog as well.

"I saw a guy sitting on the stairs of the station and a police officer came into the shop asking for a can of Coke. I thought it was for him, they went out and gave it to the guy.

"They made him sit on the stairs. He looked to be a reasonable person.

"The police were all armed. They had pistols rather than the big guns."

Amnesty International UK's head of policy and government affairs, Allan Hogarth, said the incident was "extremely disturbing".

He said: "The Taser is a potentially lethal weapon which should be used only in a strictly limited set of circumstances, namely a threat to life or the risk of very serious injury.

"We're calling for police officers to undergo rigorous training which takes into account how to respond to people in vulnerable groups, including the visually impaired."

Sally Harvey, chief executive of Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB), said: "We were shocked to hear that Greater Manchester Police has tasered a man, said to have sight loss, because of confusion over his folding cane.

"Blind and partially sighted people who use canes do so to help them safely navigate their way around and they do not expect to be tasered by the police.

"This is not the first such incident and the impact of this type of incident for all blind and partially sighted people cannot be underestimated."

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