Use of TASERs justified during blade and drugs incidents: Police Ombudsman

Published Date: 15.09.2016

The Police Ombudsman has found that police were justified in using TASER stun guns to prevent people causing harm to themselves, either with blades or as a result of drugs, during incidents in Lisburn, Ballymena and Belfast last year.

The weapons were used three times during one incident in Lisburn in July 2015, when a man who broke into two houses while on drugs, threatened to jump from a first floor window.

In September 2015, TASER was used against a woman in Ballymena who was bleeding from her arms and had a knife held to her throat.

And last November the weapon was used again when a man with drug problems, who had recently attempted to take his own life, locked himself in a bathroom and caused self-harm.

All discharges of police firearms, including TASER stun guns, are referred by the Chief Constable to the Police Ombudsman for independent investigation.

Police Ombudsman investigators found that police had been alerted to the incident in Lisburn by a woman whose home was broken into by a man who admitted having been “high on substances” at the time.

The woman was in the house with her daughter and was clearly distraught when she called for help. The Police Ombudsman, Dr Michael Maguire, found that she had been dealt with in a “calm and reassuring way” by the police call handler.

The man then left her house and broke into the property next door, where witnesses saw him armed with knives smashing furniture and windows.

Three stun gun discharges were required to help bring him under control when he went to jump from the window.

The incident in Ballymena happened after the woman was reported to have called 999 in “a confused state.”

When officers arrived she told them to go away as she did not need them, but they stayed outside and a short time later she came out of her house with a knife held to her throat, and cuts bleeding from her arms.

Officers reported that TASER was used when she raised the knife to her throat and said “that’s it”. She was then taken to hospital.

Police were called to the north Belfast incident by a doctor who reported that a man who had a knife and a chain around his neck, had locked himself in a bathroom.

Officers forced their way into the room after seeing the man bleeding heavily from wounds to his neck and wrists.

Dr Maguire concluded that the use of TASER during each incident had been lawful, justified and proportionate, and had helped prevent those involved causing themselves more serious harm.

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