Published Date: Dec 2016
Police were justified in using a TASER stun gun to prevent a man cutting himself with a shard of glass or causing a traffic accident during an incident in west Belfast, a Police Ombudsman investigation has concluded.
It happened in November 2015 after staff at a hostel reported that a resident was cutting himself with a broken bottle.
Enquiries by the Police Ombudsman’s Office found that when Armed Response officers arrived at the hostel they were advised that the man had left and was last seen walking towards the city centre.
Officers found him standing on a traffic island in the middle of a busy road with the broken glass held against his neck. They said he was angry and aggressive and bleeding heavily from a wound on his forearm.
Man shouted: "Put that gun down or I'll do it!"
One officer reported trying to calm him down by shouting that they were there to help, to which he responded: “Put that gun down or I’ll do it!”
The officer added that he was aware that as police were speaking to him, the man was moving backwards towards the flow of traffic.
The officer said he considered that TASER was the only effective option for resolving the situation. He then discharged the weapon, causing the man to fall to the ground where he was restrained by officers before being assisted by ambulance staff.
The man later told a Police Ombudsman investigator that he had drank a lot of vodka after a row with his partner, and although his recollection of what happened was vague, he had no complaints about police actions.
Hostel staff said the man had been aggressive and verbally abusive and had been asked to leave the hostel, although one staff member said he believed the use of TASER had been unnecessary.
However, the Police Ombudsman, Dr Michael Maguire, noted that the officer had been required to act quickly in a rapidly developing situation in order to prevent the man or anyone else coming to harm.
He concluded that the officer had acted in the lawful execution of his duty, and that the use of TASER had been justified.