Taser use 'justified' in knife attacks

Published Thursday, 13 March 2014
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Police were justified in using Tasers during five separate incidents across Northern Ireland involving people armed with knives, the Police Ombudsman has found following investigations.

Taser use 'justified' in knife attacks
Police usage of Taser stun guns is investigated by the Ombudsman. (© Getty)
Conducted by:
Police Ombudsman Dr Michael Maguire
witness statements, police documents and radio transmissions
Also considered:
medical evidence and info from Tasers’ electronic memories
Found Taser use was:
justified, necessary and proportionate
Found officers were:
appropriately trained and authorised
Also found:
warnings were given when practicable

According to Dr Michael Maguire's report, one of the incidents involved a man threatening his mother and sister with a knife.

The other four all involved someone threatening to harm or even kill themselves.

During the most recent incident to be investigated by the Ombudsman, police responded to a 999 call about a man with a knife outside a house in Belleek, Co Fermanagh, and threatening the owner.

The man then went into another house nearby and, when officers entered, held a pizza cutter to his own throat and threatened to kill himself.

A Taser was fired, allowing police to disarm and restrain him.

In January 2013, police in Dungannon received a call about a man who was said to be threatening his mother and sister.

Officers arrived at the scene and found the two women in distressed states and the man brandishing a knife, which he refused to drop after appeals to do so.

When he turned towards the women, a Taser was used and he dropped the knife before being restrained by police.

Back in December 2011, an incident in Newtownabbey saw a Taser used by police when a man threatening to kill himself held a knife to his own throat.

In that instance, a relative of the man in question later told Police Ombudsman investigators that he was satisfied with the actions taken by the officers.

I am satisfied that the police were presented with situations in which there was a clear risk of injury to members of the public and police officers, and that the use of Taser was appropriate in helping to quickly remove such threats.

Police Ombudsman Dr Michael Maguire

And in October of that year, a Taser was used on a man who rushed at police in Lisburn while armed with a knife - after having asked the officers if he would shoot him if he ran at them.

The man had been threatening to kill himself and was also reported to have been trying to push a dog into the road and into the path of oncoming traffic.

In April 2010, Tasers were used against a man in east Belfast who was suspected of involvement in a spate of armed robberies in the Woodstock Road and Albertbridge Road areas.

One suspect had already been captured, but police believed a second man was in the upstairs of the house and that he may have had a gun.

After they tried to persuade him to hand himself in, he came down the stairs with a kitchen knife. His wrists were cut in several places and his forearms covered in blood.

Two officers said he was shouting aggressively and pointing the knife at them as he approached, prompting them to train their Tasers on him and warn him to drop the weapon.

When he appeared to reach for the waistband of his trousers, police feared he was reaching for a gun and both fired their Tasers. Both missed and the man ran upstairs.

After a four-hour stand-off, during which the man threatened to shoot the officers and hang himself, he eventually surrendered to police.

The large kitchen knife and an imitation firearm were recovered at the scene.

In investigating the east Belfast incident, the Police Ombudsman found a discrepancy of 14 seconds in the times recorded by the two Tasers, despite them being used virtually simultaneously.

Dr Maguire noted that "had the circumstances of these discharges been more contentious, the discrepancies in timings between the two discharges could have raised significant issues".

The PSNI has confirmed that it has since taken measures to synchronise the devices' built-in clocks.

© UTV News
Comments Comments
the police deserve credit in belfast wrote (326 days ago):
if people carry weapons and are prepared to use them, the police have every right to use the taser on them. how many people would like to face someone carrying a weapon and try to disarm them? if this was in America the police would just shoot them with a gun. the next thing we will get on here is the do gooders moaning about the police using these tasers, what do they expect, the police to get hurt?
BIG G in The East wrote (326 days ago):
Police have guns to protect the public and themselves against crimnals because they cant use deadly force as is used in america they are given tazers so as these criminals are not shot, killed ,or injured then when they use the tazer the police ombudsman is involved to question if they were used properly , come on what is going on lets just give these criminal nutters the guns and tazers and let them rob, beat ,rape and shoot and kill us all , wake up and smell the coffee ,descent law abiding citizens need the protection not these scum bags ,im sure these ombudsman reviews are not free ,spend the money on something worthwhile and help someone who needs it ,lifes to short
Realist Warrenpoint in South Down wrote (326 days ago):
This is a disgrace the way Police are monitored let them get on with their job without quangos questioning everything they do. That is what is wrong with this country the Police cannot Police.
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