An investigation by the Police Ombudsman’s Office has found that police officers were justified in using a Taser on a man who had threatened to slash his own throat, and who charged at them with a knife.
The incident happened in Lisburn in October 2011.
Police had received a call reporting that a man had a knife held to his neck and was threatening to kill himself. The caller also reported that the man had a Rottweiler dog which he was pushing onto the road into the path of oncoming traffic.
Uniform police officers were first to respond, and an armed response unit arrived a short time later. The armed response officers spoke to the man for around 20 minutes in a bid to resolve the situation. A trained negotiator was also tasked.
At one stage the man asked police if they would shoot him if he ran at them with the knife. He then started to walk quickly towards an officer and shouted: “I’m going to do it!”.
The officer drew his Taser and ordered the man to stop, but when he continued to approach, the officer fired the weapon at the man’s chest. He fell to the ground with his arms at his side, but continued to hold onto the knife.
A second officer then discharged his Taser, which then allowed police to move in and restrain him.
The man was examined by ambulance crew, who noted a cut to his neck which they believed had been caused by his own knife. He was then taken into custody at Lisburn police station. The Public Prosecution Service subsequently directed that the man should not be prosecuted for his actions during the incident.
All discharges of police firearms, including Tasers, are automatically referred by the Chief Constable to the Police Ombudsman’s Office for independent investigation.
During their investigation of the incident, Police Ombudsman investigators secured a range of evidence, including CCTV footage, police documentation and radio transmissions, and statements from police officers and other witnesses.
Having assessed the evidence, the Police Ombudsman, Dr Michael Maguire, concluded that the use of Taser had been justified in order to prevent the man from harming himself, and also to prevent the man from stabbing police.
“The officers believed that the man posed a serious risk to both himself and police,” said Dr Maguire. “Police undertook all reasonable steps in order to achieve a peaceful resolution, and dealt with the incident in a professional manner.”