The Police Ombudsman has concluded that police were justified in using Taser against a man who had stabbed himself and was threatening to cut his throat, during an incident in Belleek in April 2012.
Dr Michael Maguire found that the use of Taser had been the “only practical means of preventing serious injury or death.”
During their investigation, Police Ombudsman investigators considered a range of evidence, including civilian and police witness statements, and police documentation and radio transmissions.
They established that police had received a call from the man’s parents, who reported that he was outside their home and was drunk, in breach of his bail conditions.
Having confirmed that the bail conditions specified no alcohol, police arrived at the property shortly after 4.15am. It was another half hour before the man was found inside the house, lying underneath a bed.
Officers reported that he was drunk and in “a very agitated state.” He had a small knife and was threatening to self-harm, and also later said he was going to kill himself.
Officers negotiated with him, trying to get him to calm down and hand over the knife, but after almost 40 minutes the man stabbed himself in a buttock. An ambulance was requested, and officers asked its crew not to use the vehicle’s flashing lights or sirens should so as not to alarm or agitate the man any further.
A few minutes later, as officers waited outside the bedroom, the man came to the door with the knife held to his throat. An officer used CS spray against him, and he retreated back into the room.
An officer told Police Ombudsman investigators that given the heightened risk posed by the situation, a decision was made to task armed response officers.
When they arrived shortly after 6am, the man drew the blinds of the bedroom, preventing any visual contact with police. Officers said this increased their concerns for his safety and a decision was made to force entry to the room.
As they entered the room, they saw the man trying to crawl under the bed. Despite the officers’ commands to come out and throw the knife away, the man continued to threaten to take his own life.
When he then held the knife to his throat, an officer said he considered there to be an immediate threat to life, and decided to use Taser. The officer said he did so as officers were too far away to use batons or CS Spray .
Another officer recalled that he too was ready to use his Taser, and would have done so, but did not have a clear shot.
The barbs from the Taser struck the man in the upper back, incapacitating him and allowing two officers to disarm him. Officers noted knife wounds to his arms and neck. He was given first aid by paramedics before being taken to hospital.
An examination of the Taser confirmed that it had been discharged at 6.19am. Training records showed that the officer who used the weapon was trained and authorised to do so.
The man’s parents, although upset that Taser had to be used against their son, understood why police had to do so.
Dr Maguire concluded that the police response to the situation had been “graduated and proportionate”, and that Taser was used as a last option after more than an hour and a half of negotiation.
“Throughout the operation, the health and wellbeing of the man, members of the public and police officer was paramount,” he said.