Police justified in using taser during knife incidents in Belfast, Ballymena and Dunmurry

Published Date: 28.12.2015

The Police Ombudsman has concluded that police were justified in using Taser during incidents involving knives in Belfast, Ballymena and Dunmurry.

On 27 November last year officers responded to a call that a man was stabbing at a kitchen door and threatening his brother-in-law. Police arrived at the scene and were told the man had gone to another house with the knife.

Officers went to that property and reported that the man came out and walked directly towards a number of officers, waving his hands about and ignoring warnings.

The officer who fired the Taser said he acted in the interests of the safety of himself and his colleagues as he believed the man had a knife. Officers were then able to restrain the man and apply handcuffs.

On 28 March 2015 police received a call from a man who said his son was outside his house in Ballymena, shouting and cutting himself with a knife. Several other members of the public also called to report that the man was cutting his wrists.

Officers told a Police Ombudsman investigator that the man, whose arms were covered in blood, ran off when they approached, but was quickly found at a nearby electricity substation.

The officer who fired Taser said the man was continuing to cut his wrists and he acted to prevent any further self-harm. However, he said the man kept hold of the knife and struggled when police went to restrain him, so he activated the Taser for a second time. This caused the man to release the knife, and he was then taken to Antrim Area Hospital for treatment.

The third incident happened in Dunmurry on 27 May this year when police responded to a report that a woman had cut her own throat.

The officer who discharged the Taser said the woman was holding the knife against her throat as his colleagues approached, and he acted in the interests of her safety and that of his colleagues.

Use of the weapon allowed officers to remove the knife, and the woman was given first aid before being taken to hospital.

No complaints were made about police actions during any of the incidents. The woman later told a Police Ombudsman investigator that she understood why police had used the weapon.

Enquiries by Police Ombudsman investigators confirmed that the officers who used Taser were properly trained in its use, and had been authorised to carry it at the time.

Police Ombudsman Dr Michael Maguire said: “Officers had given warnings and provided opportunities to resolve these incidents without the use of force.

“However, when their orders were ignored, and given the inherent risks posed by incidents involving knives, I am satisfied that the use of Taser was justified, lawful and proportionate.”

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