Police right to use Taser against man who had stabbed himself

Published Date: 03.09.2015

An investigation by the Police Ombudsman’s Office has concluded that police were justified in using Taser against a man who had stabbed himself in the stomach with a knife.

The incident happened in south Belfast on 20 February 2014, after police responded to calls expressing concern for the man’s wellbeing.

A charity called police to report that he had taken alcohol and they were worried for his safety. They made a second call a short time later, warning that the man had said he would “knife” police when they arrived.

The man had been violent towards police on a previous occasion and police armed response units were tasked to deal with the incident. Officers arrived at the man’s home and, after finding him to be safe and well, left the scene.

However, 20 minutes later police received another call from the charity to report that the man had reported having stabbed himself.

An armed response unit arrived at the man’s house five minutes later, and an ambulance a minute after that. The man refused to open the door, and officers forced entry.

Man did not appear to be in distress, but had knife held to his stomach and refused to put it down.

The man was found to be sitting on a sofa with a knife held against his stomach. He did not appear to be in distress and spoke to officers, but refused to put the knife down.

Officers soon noticed a small amount of blood on the knife and on the man’s stomach. A police sergeant then authorised the use of Taser. This allowed officers to restrain the man, who was then treated by paramedics before being taken to hospital.

During their investigation into the use of Taser during the incident, Police Ombudsman investigators examined all relevant police records as well as items retrieved from the scene.

They also examined police training records and established that the officer who had used Taser had been properly trained and authorised to use the weapon.

Police Ombudsman, Dr Michael Maguire, noted that police had adopted a graduated response in trying initially to negotiate with the man, before acting quickly when they noticed blood from a stomach wound.

He concluded that the use of Taser during the incident was justified, necessary and proportionate to the circumstances.

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