Police justified in using Taser during Belfast and Loughgall incidents

Published Date: 22.12.2014

Police were justified in using Taser during three incidents in north Belfast and Loughgall last year, investigations by the Police Ombudsman’s Office have concluded.

Two of the incidents involved the use of the weapon against men with knives, the other was discharged at a man who officers said appeared to be reaching for a gun.

All discharges of police firearms in Northern Ireland are automatically referred by police to the Police Ombudsman’s Office for independent investigation.

The first incident happened on the Ligoniel Road in north Belfast on 21 January 2013, where a man with a knife was reported to be trying to stop traffic.

Armed police units were sent to the scene and found a man on the footpath with a large knife in his right hand.

Officers shouted “armed police” and warned him to drop the knife, and at first he seemed to comply, dropping the knife and beginning to get down on his knees. However, he then picked up the knife and moved towards two officers.

Man moved towards police with a knife in his hand.

Officers again warned him to drop the knife, and when he failed to comply, Taser was used. However, the weapon was not fully effective, and the man remained standing with the knife in his hand.

A second officer then discharged his Taser, causing the man to fall backwards over a low wall into shrubs. He was then restrained and taken to hospital for treatment.

In May 2013, officers were sent to execute a European arrest warrant relating to  a man believed to be a member of a crime gang, with access to firearms and a history of “extreme violence.”

Man with history of “extreme violence” and believed to have access to firearms.

Officers told Police Ombudsman investigators that as they tried to gain entry to the front door of a property, the man appeared at the rear carrying a holdall.

Officers reported that he made several attempts to reach into the holdall, even after being instructed by police to drop the bag. Fearing that he might be reaching for a gun, an officer discharged a Taser, the barbs from which struck the man on the torso and a thigh.

He was then restrained and arrested and later subject to extradition proceedings.

The following month, police received a call from a woman in north Belfast who said her son had left the house with a large kitchen knife. She said he might be going to a friend’s house as they had a dispute over money.

When police called her back to get more information, the woman said he had returned home with the knife and was now in his bedroom.

Police arrived at the house a few minutes later and shouted for the man to come to the front door. He then ran at them with the knife in his hand, at which point an officer fired his Taser.

As the man was being restrained and arrested, he told officers he was having a panic attack. An ambulance was called and he was then taken to hospital for treatment.

Man told officers he was having a panic attack.

Enquiries revealed that the officers who used Taser in each of the incidents had been properly trained and authorised to use the weapons.

Police Ombudsman, Dr Michael Maguire, concluded that the use of Taser had been “lawful, proportionate and necessary” given the immediate potential risk to safety during each of the incidents.


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