Use of Taser justified against man threatening to kill himself in north Belfast

Published Date: 09.09.2014

The Police Ombudsman has found that police were justified in using Taser against a man who had a knife and was threatening to kill himself.

The incident, which happened in north Belfast on 20 October 2013, was referred by the PSNI to the Police Ombudsman for independent investigation.

Police Ombudsman investigators obtained a copy of the phone call made by the man to police, during which he told them that he had a knife and a bottle and was going to kill himself. Police kept the man on the phone, while a local response crew was sent to his address.

The phone was then passed to a second man at the property, who confirmed that the caller had a knife and had been drinking. Police arrived at the house within 9 minutes of the initial phone call.

Officers said the man was pressing the knife to his throat, mouth and eye. He told them that he had consumed a bottle of vodka and was under the influence of drugs. They added that the man appeared agitated, and told them that he had mental health issues.

Officers kept the man talking until the arrival of a specialist armed response unit.

The man refused to put down the knife, and officers kept him talking until the arrival of a specialist armed response unit. These officers said he appeared to become increasingly agitated, went into the kitchen and tried to close the door behind him.

Concerned for his safety and not wanting to lose sight of him, the officers said they prevented him closing the door, at which point he then pressed the knife hard against his neck.

An officer said he then shouted “Taser, Taser” before firing the weapon at the man’s lower torso.  The weapon proved effective and allowed officers to restrain the man before taking to the Mater Hospital for treatment.

No complaint was made about the police handling of the incident.

During their investigation, Police Ombudsman investigators examined the scene of the discharge, and obtained accounts of what had happened from all available witnesses – who were consistent in their description of events.

They also established that the officer was properly trained in the use of Taser and authorised to use the weapon.

The Police Ombudsman, Dr Michael Maguire, concluded that the use of Taser during the incident had been “lawful, proportionate and necessary.”

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