Published Date: 27.12.2016
The Police Ombudsman, Dr Michael Maguire, has found that police were justified in using TASER stun guns during four incidents in Belfast, Portadown and Antrim – including an incident involving a man with a samurai sword in Belfast city centre.
The man, who had the sword concealed in a trouser leg, ran off and was chased by an officer in August 2015. He later complained that he had stopped and given himself up before TASER was used against him.
However, Dr Maguire found that the officer’s actions were justified given that he was on his own in a dimly-lit narrow street and was fearful that footsteps he had heard behind him during the chase might have been accomplices of the suspect.
In addition, the officer reported that he had not been sure whether the man was stopping to give himself up, to catch his breath before running off again, or to prepare for an attack.
In August 2015 police in Portadown used TASER while responding to a call from an “upset and incoherent” man who reported that he was “swinging a knife”.
They found him in his living room amid damaged furniture, holding a knife and threatening to stab himself.
In November 2015, officers used TASER against a man in west Belfast, to prevent him causing further injury with a shard of broken glass which he had pressed against his throat.
Officers reported that the man was bleeding heavily from a wound to his arm, and was acting aggressively while moving backwards towards passing traffic. They said TASER was used to prevent him being knocked down or inflicting further injury with the broken glass.
In June 2016, Taser was used in Antrim town against an intoxicated male who pointed a crossbow at his head and threatened to shoot. Officers had also been warned that he had a gun and a hunting knife.
Taser was used when he dropped the crossbow and ran towards officers, who said they were concerned that he would reach for a weapon.
Dr Maguire found that in each instance, TASER had been lawful, justified and proportionate given the risks posed by the situations they faced.