Taser use justified against 18-year-old in north Belfast

Published Date: 06.05.2015

The Police Ombudsman has concluded that police were justified in using Taser against a 18-year-old who threatened officers with a knife after they responded to a 999 call from his mother.

The incident happened in north Belfast in the early hours of 26 October 2013.

All incidents during which police firearms are discharged, are automatically referred by police to the Police Ombudsman’s Office for independent investigation.

During their investigation, Police Ombudsman investigators reviewed police records, analysed the electronic memory of the Taser, and secured statements from the officers involved.

They established that the youth’s mother had called police after he had arrived home intoxicated and with a black eye. When his mother challenged him about what had happened he walked out of the house.

He was later found by police, and officers reported that he had run off and became aggressive when caught by officers. He was then restrained in handcuffs and taken home.

Some time later, the youth’s mother called 999 to report that he was causing trouble, had climbed out through a window and possibly had a knife. Officers reported that they could hear banging during the phone call.

When officers arrived at the house, the youth’s mother warned them that her son had threatened to stab police if they came back looking for him. Officers searched the surrounding area, but were unable to find him.

Later the same night his mother made a third phone call to police. She stated that her son had returned home and was “going mad” and still had a knife. She said no one had been injured, but stated that he was highly agitated and threatening to kill himself.

A police negotiator was sent, but efforts to mediate with the youth failed. He broke windows and was reported to haveg drawn the knife over his body.

Armed police response officers were sent to the scene. They told Police Ombudsman investigators that the situation continued to deteriorate as the youth threatened to kill police and himself.  Despite officers shouting “Armed police, drop the knife”, they said he refused to drop the weapon.

Officers said he then moved aggressively towards them with the knife, and when he ignored another warning, Taser was used against him. Although he continued to act aggressively, officers were able to restrain him.

He was taken to the Accident and Emergency Department at the Mater Hospital, but given his continued aggressive behaviour, staff there refused to treat him. He was then taken into police custody.

Police Ombudsman investigators found that the officer who had used the Taser had been authorised to do so, and was properly trained in its use.

Having considered the evidence, Police Ombudsman Dr Michael Maguire concluded that the use of Taser had been lawful, proportionate and necessary.



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