Taser use justified against man threatening to cut his own throat

Published Date: 11.09.2015

A Police Ombudsman investigation has concluded that police were justified in using Taser against a man armed with a knife who was threatening to cut his own throat.

The incident happened in the Dollingstown area of County Armagh on 28 May 2011.

As with all discharges of police firearms, it was referred to the Police Ombudsman’s Office for independent investigation.

Enquiries revealed that police had been searching for the man after receiving a call from his partner, who stated that he was assaulting her.

Officers were immediately tasked, but the man had left before they arrived. His partner told officers that he had taken a knife with him.

The man's details were circulated to police units and several hours later he was spotted in the Dollingstown area, but ran off into undergrowth when challenged.

Officers kept him under observation and described him as “agitated”. They said he tried to use a knife to cut himself, threatened to kill himself and demanded that they stay away from him.

The officers then requested assistance. Belfast Regional Control, which co-ordinated the police response, tasked Armed Response Officers to the scene.

When the Armed Response Officers arrived they managed to persuade the man to come out from the undergrowth. They noted that he had a knife, had apparently cut himself and was attempting to make further cuts. He then raised the knife to his throat.

Officers said they feared for the man’s life and ordered him several times to drop the knife. When he failed to do so, an officer discharged his Taser, which proved effective in incapacitating him.

The officer who discharged the Taser said he feared the man’s life was in serious danger.  His account was corroborated by other police officers, as well as a member of the ambulance crew who had been there before, during and after the Taser discharge. He said that in his view police had no option but to act to preserve life. 

The Police Ombudsman noted that police had employed a graduated response to the incident, trying initially to negotiate with Man A, and only resorting to the use of force when it was absolutely necessary.

The investigation concluded that the use of Taser had been lawful, justified and proportionate, and in compliance with all relevant police guidelines.

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