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Taser used on Moat not approved by Home Office

By Mark Hughes

The two police officers who fired at Raoul Moat with stun guns were using weapons that they had received little or no training for and which had not been approved by the Home Office.

The inquest into the death of Mr Moat heard yesterday how he had been fired at by two firearms officers using XRep Tasers – shotgun-style weapons which can reach further and are more powerful than the standard hand-held Tasers carried by most police forces.

The Independent has also learned that the weapons, which are currently being tested by the Home Office, were ordered by Northumbria Police only last week – purely for use in the search for Mr Moat – and arrived just days before being fired at the fugitive.

It is understood that the XRep guns arrived as late as last Thursday and were handed out to firearms officers from Northumbria and other forces who had travelled to help the hunt for Mr Moat.

The officers had just hours to familiarise themselves with the weapon, which had never been used in a live situation in Britain before. A stand-off between Mr Moat and the police started on Friday evening and ended when the former nightclub bouncer shot himself in the early hours of Saturday morning. He was taken to hospital and later died.

The inquest into Mr Moat's death gave the preliminary cause of death as a gunshot wound to the head and said it was not clear whether the Tasers were fired before or after Moat turned his gun on himself.

Steve Reynolds, senior investigator at the Independent Police Complaints Commission, told the hearing in Newcastle upon Tyne that the officers, from West Yorkshire police, discharged their Tasers in an apparent attempt to prevent Mr Moat, 37, from killing himself.

Reynolds said that at this stage "the precise sequence of events regarding the discharge of the Taser has not been established and is under investigation".

Given that the weapons have not been approved by the Home Office, the decision of Northumbria Police to buy and use them was described as "rare" by police sources.

The XRep Taser has a range of 100ft rather than 21ft, and has an anti-tamper device so that if the victim tries to remove the high-voltage missile it delivers an electric shock to their hands. It also stuns the victim for 20 seconds – far longer than the less powerful hand-held weapon.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission yesterday said that it was investigating how and when the force acquired the guns and what training was provided to officers.

A Home Office spokesman confirmed that the guns had not been approved by its scientific development branch but added: "Police forces have discretion to use any equipment they see fit as long as the use of force is lawful, reasonable and proportionate."

The seven-day manhunt for Mr Moat started on 3 July when he was suspected of killing his former partner Samantha Stobbart's boyfriend, Chris Brown, and injuring her, in Birtley, Gateshead.

Next he shot police constable David Rathband, 42, in his patrol car in East Denton, Newcastle, before going to ground and finally emerging in the Northumberland village of Rothbury.

It emerged that Mr Moat had been released from prison on the Thursday before his rampage and that the prison had told Northumbria Police that he had made threats against Ms Stobbart, 22.

Yesterday, three men were arrested in connection with assisting an offender. It brings the total number of people arrested in connection with Mr Moat's rampage to 10. Eight have been arrested on suspicion of assisting an offender. Two men – Karl Ness, 26, from Dudley, in North Tyneside, and Qhuram "Sean" Awan, 23, from Blyth in Northumberland – have been charged with conspiracy to murder.

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