Belfast Telegraph

Ombudsman backs police Taser use

A man who threatened to slit his throat with a pizza cutter was shot with a Taser by police in a justified use of force, the Police Ombudsman said.

It was one of several uses of the electroshock weapon which Ombudsman Dr Michael Maguire investigated and then exonerated police of any wrongdoing.

Officers had responded to a 999 call that a man in Belleek in Co Fermanagh was threatening a home owner last summer. When they arrived he had gone to a nearby house.

The Ombudsman's office said: "When police entered the property the man held up a pizza cutter to his throat and threatened to kill himself.

"An officer then fired a Taser, which allowed police to disarm and restrain him."

All incidents involving the police's use of firearms are automatically referred to the Ombudsman.

Dr Maguire considered witness statements, police documents, radio transmissions and medical evidence as well as information retrieved from the electronic memory of Tasers.

He found that police were justified in using the devices during five incidents involving people armed with knives.

Four surrounded individuals threatening to kill or harm themselves and the other involved a man using a knife to threaten his distressed mother and sister. The use of a Taser allowed police to disarm those involved.

Other cases included:

:: In April 2010 police in east Belfast fired a Taser against a man suspected of involvement in armed robberies in the Woodstock Road and Albertbridge Road areas.

He was found in a house with a kitchen knife and his wrists had been cut in several places with his forearms smeared in blood. Officers said he was shouting aggressively and had his knife pointing towards them as he approached.

When he appeared to reach for the waistband of his trousers police feared he might be trying to retrieve a gun and fired their Tasers. They missed and the man ran upstairs but was later persuaded to surrender.

:: In Lisburn in October 2011 police used the weapon against a man with a knife who was threatening to kill himself and was also reported to have been trying to push a dog onto the road into the path of traffic. Officers said the Taser was used as he had rushed towards them with the knife in his hand, having previously asked if they would shoot if he ran at them with the knife.

:: A Taser was used in Newtownabbey in December 2011 when police received a report that a man had a knife and rope and was threatening to kill himself. The weapon was discharged when the man placed the knife at his throat. His relative told the Ombudsman's office he was satisfied with actions taken by police.

Dr Maguire said: "I am satisfied that the police were presented with situations in which there was a clear risk of injury to members of the public and police officers and that the use of a Taser was appropriate in helping to quickly remove such threats."


From Belfast Telegraph