Tasers fired by trained policemen may breach suspects’ human rights
TASER weapons have received cautious backing in a preliminary report into a police pilot, which could lead to them being more widely used.
But the report also warns their use by non-firearms officers may be in breach of article two of the European Convention on Human Rights – the right to life.
In his summary, Christopher Mason, of the Strathclyde Police Authority, called for more research to be carried out “in further consideration of how taser can be deployed in Scotland consistently with ECHR article two”.
He also said it should now be up to the Scottish Government – rather than police – to decide what role tasers should play in the new national force, which will launch in just under a year.
“It’s for the government to decide what weapons should be available to the police. To say it’s entirely a matter for chief constables is nonsense.”
The report found the taser was deployed in 11 incidents but only used in one; in the other cases just drawing it or “red-spotting” the target was enough to persuade them to comply.
In his report, Mr Mason wrote: “In my judgment, the officers who took part in the Strathclyde pilot made proportionate and sensible judgments about the deployment of taser.
“They found taser to be a weapon which enabled them to bring dangerous situations – in which there was some risk of serious violence – under control without resort to physical force and without anyone suffering further injury.”
Questions over the legality of tasers stem from an opinion given by Keir Starmer QC to the Northern Ireland Policing Board in 2007, which described them as “potentially lethal”.
Strathclyde Police Authority sought their own opinion from Simon di Rollo QC. “It follows from the above that I am concerned that the current test may not comply with article two of ECHR,” he said.
Human rights groups are keen to play a role in assessing what place tasers should have, if any, in the future of Scottish policing.
A spokeswoman for the Scottish Human Rights Commission said: “The commission is planning to host a discussion with all authorities and organisations who have legal responsibilities towards lethal weapons to discuss the evaluation of the pilot scheme and possible future use of tasers. This is especially important as the process of developing a new single police force for Scotland moves ahead.”
The Scottish Government insists tasers remain a matter for chief constables. A spokeswoman said: “We haven’t yet seen the authority’s report, but look forward to considering it in detail once it is received. The deployment of firearms, including taser, is a matter for individual chief constables.”
A Strathclyde Police Authority spokesman said: “Members of the authority will sit to consider the findings of the report in the near future.”
A Strathclyde Police spokeswoman said: “We are still evaluating and are yet to submit our final report to Strathclyde Police Authority with regards to the taser project. It would be entirely wrong to suggest this is the collective view of the taser evaluation group.”
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