Police use of Tasers justified in ten incidents involving use of weapons

Published Date: 06.05.2015

The Police Ombudsman has published his findings into ten incidents during which Tasers were fired by police officers between July 2012 and June last year.

Dr Michael Maguire found that the use of Taser had on each occasion been lawful , proportionate and necessary given the risks faced by officers and the danger posed to members of the public.

All of the incidents involved the use of weapons by people who were either harming themselves or had attacked or threatened to assault police officers or others.

The weapons used during the incidents ranged from knives, iron bars and a wine bottle, to a kettle bell weight and an antique sword. Police also dealt with a report suggesting that a member of the public had access to a crossbow.

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

The first incident happened in west Belfast on 15 July 2012, when Taser was used against a man who had locked himself in a bedroom and had a knife to his throat.

On 5 August 2012, police responded to reports that a man with a hammer was assaulting people in a street in east Belfast. Members of the public told officers that the man might also have a knife and access to a crossbow.

Taser was used when the man, who appeared to be under the influence of drink or drugs, reached into a pocket, causing officers concern he was reaching for a knife. 

On 23 January 2013, officers used Taser against a man who had threatened members of the public with a knife in west Belfast, and was later found barricaded in a flat with a knife held to his throat.

Taser was again used in north Belfast on 14 May 2013 when officers were attacked by a group of youths armed with iron bars and a knife.

Police were called to an incident in Dundonald on 3 October 2013 by a woman who reported that her husband was drunk, had a knife and was going to kill himself. Taser was used when the man moved the knife towards his throat.

On 16 October 2013, Taser was used in Glengormley  to stop a man cutting his throat with a sharp instrument, and 10 days later it was used against an 18-year-old in north Belfast after he used a knife to threaten to kill officers and himself.

On 19 March 2014, Taser was used against a man in east Belfast who had sliced his wrist and appeared ready to cut more deeply into the wound. The officer who fired the Taser said he had done so as he believed the wound to be life-threatening.

Taser was also used in Dundonald on 28 April 2014 against a man who at one stage had threatened police with an antique sword and who used shards of broken crockery to cut and stab his hands, neck and face.

In Carrickfergus on 15 June 2014, officers Tasered a man who attacked them with a kettle bell weight in one hand and a wine bottle in the other, after they responded to reports of a man acting aggressively and attempting to gain entry to a property.

Dr Maguire found that all the officers who fired Taser during these incidents had been properly trained and authorised to do so.

The ten incidents were not the only use of Taser by police during this period – some have previously been reported on by the Police Ombudsman, and other reports will be issued in the near future.


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