Use of TASER justified as man threatened to self-harm with a chisel

The Police Ombudsman has concluded that a police officer was justified in discharging a TASER stun gun at a man who was threatening to harm himself with a chisel during an incident in Derry/Londonderry in May 2016.

Police had received a call from a woman who reported that her partner, who was drunk, was at her flat and was threatening to kill himself. She stated that her young baby was also in the property.

Enquiries by a Police Ombudsman investigator found that a police unit was assigned to the call within three minutes, and arrived at the flat a further three minutes later.

Officers said the man had a pair of pliers, but they did not believe he posed a threat to anyone.
That assessment changed, however, and about 20 minutes later the officers reported that he was threatening to harm himself with the pliers if police came near him.

A police Armed Response Unit was then tasked to the scene. By the time it arrived, the man was holding a chisel to his chest and threatening to cause self-harm. As officers negotiated with him, he moved out of sight and locked himself in a bathroom.

The officers followed, unlocked the door and recalled seeing the man standing in a bath. They said he was holding the chisel in both hands, pointing towards his chest, and was threatening to kill himself.

They reported that he then raised the chisel and appeared about to cause himself significant harm. One of the officers aimed his police issue pistol at the man in a bid to get him to drop the chisel, while another officer discharged his TASER.

The officers said the TASER discharge was instantly effective, causing the man to drop the chisel. He was then given medical assistance by the officers and members of an ambulance crew who were also at the scene.

The Police Ombudsman’s on-call Deputy Senior Investigating Officer was informed by police about the incident within minutes. A Police Ombudsman investigator was then tasked to the scene, which was examined before all relevant police documentation was obtained.

These records showed that the officer who used TASER was properly trained in its use and authorised to carry the weapon at the time of the incident.

Having reviewed the evidence, the Police Ombudsman, Dr Michael Maguire, concluded that the use of TASER had been lawful, proportionate and necessary in the circumstances.

He noted that police had adopted a “graduated” approach, negotiating with the man and attempting to achieve a peaceful resolution, and only resorting to the use of TASER when there was an immediate threat to his safety.
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