Police acted properly in using Taser against man armed with knife at Lisburn

The Police Ombudsman has found that police were justified in using a Taser against a man armed with a knife at Lisburn in April 2011.

The incident began shortly before 10pm on 3 April 2011 when Ambulance Control contacted police and requested assistance in dealing with a disruptive male (Man A).

At about 10.12pm Ambulance Control contacted police again to advise that the man had a knife and was self-harming. They also warned that he had threatened to hurt anyone who came into his house.

Uniformed police officers arrived at the property and saw through a window that Man A was in the living room with his mother (Woman A). He seemed agitated and had a knife in his hand which he was swinging about.

Armed police were also tasked to the scene, and upon their arrival they managed to get Woman A out of the property.

Man A then came to the front door and the armed officers spoke to him in a bid to resolve the situation while they awaited the arrival of a trained negotiator who had been requested by police control.

Man A then slammed the front door shut, entered the living room and began to cut his wrists with a knife.

Officers told Police Ombudsman investigators that they feared for the safety of Man A and decided to force their way into the property. As they entered the living room Man A stood up and confronted them with the knife at head height in a "stabbing pose".

The officer who discharged the Taser at Man A (Officer A) said he feared that Man A might use the weapon either to stab an officer or to stab himself.

Officer A stated that he challenged Man A three times to put the weapon down, but he refused to do so. The officer then discharged his Taser, which disabled Man A and allowed officers to disarm and restrain him. He was then taken to Lagan Valley Hospital.

The Police Ombudsman's On Call Senior Investigating Officer was informed about the incident and, in line with normal procedure following the discharge of a police firearm, launched an immediate investigation.

Investigators attended the scene and obtained statements from witnesses, and subsequently retrieved all relevant police documentation and recordings.

The statements of two officers who had witnessed the use of the Taser corroborated Officer A's account, as did the information downloaded from the weapon's electronic memory.

Police Ombudsman investigators also obtained copies of the telephone calls between Ambulance Control and Man A. It was clear from these recordings that Man A had a knife and was refusing to put it down. During the calls, Man A threatened to harm himself, as well as police when they arrived.

Accounts were also obtained from Woman A and ambulance personnel, none of whom saw the Taser discharge. Woman A, however, stated that her son had mental health issues.

Having considered the evidence Police Ombudsman, Mr Al Hutchinson concluded that the use of Taser had been justified, necessary and proportionate in the circumstances.

"The police officer who discharged the Taser believed that Man A posed a serious risk to both himself and police, " said Mr Hutchinson.

"Throughout the incident, the health and wellbeing of Man A and police officers was considered and preserved. Police followed all legal and procedural protocols," added Mr Hutchinson.


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