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Tasers are backed by Policing Board

By Chris Thornton

The Policing Board yesterday backed the issuing of 50,000 volt stun guns to specialist PSNI officers. Its approval of Tasers also revealed the PSNI intends to widen their deployment to armed response vehicles.

The PSNI Chief Constable has been seeking approval for the weapons for over a year. In January he launched a six-month pilot programme.

The weapon wasn't used in that time, so the pilot was extended. It was first used by police in August against a Londonderry man who is disputing the circumstances in which he was shocked.

Meanwhile, a High Court case being brought on behalf of an unidentified Belfast child is seeking to stop police from using the weapon.

A judge is due to decide next week whether to issue a ban on its further use until a full hearing can be held in January.

And a UN Committee is expected to raise questions about the use of Tasers against children in a report today.

Opponents of the weapon have linked it with deaths in North America, but the US manufacturers deny Taser has been responsible for any fatalities.

The PSNI is the last police force in the UK or Ireland to acquire the weapons.

A year ago the Policing Board decided to withhold approval of the weapon until the PSNI completed an Equality Impact Assessment (EqIA). But Sir Hugh told them he could not complete the EqIA without the Board's views.

Yesterday the Board voted to support “in principle the Chief Constable's decision to permanently issue Taser to specialist operations branch and to armed response vehicles subject to completion in respect of the latter of a satisfactory pilot”.

A second pilot programme will be run to monitor the use of Tasers by armed response units.

DUP Policing Board member Peter Weir said Tasers have “rightly been recognised as a useful and valuable tool in the fight against crime”.

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