Taser use justified during knife incident at Mater Hospital: Police Ombudsman

Published Date: 03.09.2015

The Police Ombudsman has found that police were justified in using Taser against a woman who threatened to cut her own throat during an incident at Belfast’s Mater Hospital in October 2014.

Hospital staff called police shortly after 3pm on 8 October 2014 to report that a woman was in the Accident and Emergency Department with a knife and was threatening to cut herself.

The incident, as with all discharges of police firearms in Northern Ireland, was referred by the Chief Constable to the Police Ombudsman for independent investigation.

Hospital CCTV footage retrieved by Police Ombudsman investigators showed hospital staff persuading the woman to move from the reception area to a nearby corridor away from other members of the public.

A nursing sister stayed with the woman until police arrived, and remained with her until the subsequent arrival of a specialist police armed response unit.

Officers from this unit spent more than 30 minutes trying to persuade the woman to drop the knife, but she remained in a corner with the knife held to her throat and refused to speak to officers.

Officers reported seeing marks on the woman’s neck caused by the blade, while the nursing sister told investigators that she was concerned that there was a risk of the woman harming herself or someone else.

Police radio transmissions were examined and these confirmed that the police firearms commander had been kept abreast of events at the hospital before ultimately authorising the use of Taser.

Police Ombudsman Dr Michael Maguire concluded that the decision to issue, deploy and discharge Taser was lawful and in accordance with legislation and training guidelines.

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