Use of TASER justified after man locked himself in bathroom with knife

The Police Ombudsman has concluded that police were justified in using a TASER stun gun against a man who had locked himself in a bathroom, and who appeared to have caused injury to his neck and wrists.

The incident happened in north Belfast in November 2015 after a doctor reported that the man had locked himself in a bathroom with a knife and a chain around his neck.

The doctor said the man had a history of drug abuse and had recently attempted to commit suicide, and asked that he be detained and taken to hospital.

In line with standard practice, the use of a stun gun during the incident was referred by the Chief Constable to the Police Ombudsman for independent investigation.

Accounts were obtained from the officers involved, who said armed officers had been sent to the scene given that the man was reported to have a knife.

He was spoken to through the locked door, but officers said he refused to co-operate before going silent for a time.

Fearing for the man’s safety, officers decided to force immediate entry into the bathroom.  The door was forced open slightly before the man managed to slam it shut again, but not before officers had seen a large amount of blood on his neck and wrists, and on a knife.

Enforcer device was used to open door.

An “Enforcer” device was then used to force the door open. An officer said he shouted a warning before discharging a TASER stun gun, which caused the man to fall backwards into a bath.

He was then handcuffed, given immediate medical assistance and taken to hospital.

Officers reported that a razor blade was found in his right hand and other weapons on the floor nearby.

Police Ombudsman investigators also obtained accounts of what had happened from the man’s mother, brother and sister, none of whom expressed concern about police actions.

Police documentation and witness accounts corroborated the officers’ accounts of what happened, and the officer who used the stun gun was found to have been properly trained and authorised at the time.

Police Ombudsman, Dr Michael Maguire, concluded that the use of TASER had been lawful, proportionate and necessary in the circumstances, and found that the officers involved had acted in compliance with all relevant PSNI guidelines.

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