First NI Taser use “justified and proportionate”

As the BBC reports, the Northern Ireland Police Ombudsman has found that the first use of Tasers in NI was “justified and proportionate”. Policing Board member Sinn Féin’s Martina Anderson believes the findings “to be flawed and the Ombudsman carried out a weak investigation.” Meanwhile, from UUP MLA Basil McCrea, “I told Sinn Fein at last month’s meeting of the Policing Board that they should not anticipate the decision of the Ombudsman.” From the Ombudsman’s statement.

The Police Ombudsman, Mr Al Hutchinson, praised an “effective and successful policing operation”, and said the use of the Taser had been the best means of resolving the situation. “The use of a Taser represented a less lethal option compared to the potential use of live fire or impact [baton] rounds at close range. Unlike handheld batons, it allowed officers to maintain a safe distance from a suspect they believed was armed with a knife,” he said. However Mr Hutchinson has also made a number of procedural recommendations to the PSNI , including that advice to medical professionals on the removal of the small barbs which are discharged by Tasers should be re-circulated.

The circumstances police found themselves in are worth noting. From the Ombudsman’s statement

Police were first called to the incident at about 3am. A woman in a distressed state said that her partner had locked himself in their home with their two children, aged four and five, and was threatening to kill the children and himself. She said her partner had been drinking and had a knife.

Repeated unsuccessful attempts were made by police to contact the man by mobile phone. However, shortly after 6.30am he went to the back door of the property. Officers stationed there instructed him to move into the back yard and clear of the house. The man took one step forward but didn’t move further. He was then struck by the Taser discharge and fell to the ground, suffering injuries to his head and elbow, before officers moved in to restrain and handcuff him.

The officer who discharged the Taser later told Police Ombudsman investigators that he believed the children would have been at risk if the man had re-entered the house. The officer said the man had been drinking, was in an emotional and agitated state, was believed to have a knife and had threatened harm to the children.

Charges against the man were later dropped when “the prosecution said the alleged injured party had made a statement of withdrawal.”