Watchdog says police were right to shoot woman wielding axe

Assitant Chief Constable Mark Williams praised the officers.
Assitant Chief Constable Mark Williams praised the officers.
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A watchdog has found police used necessary and proportionate force when they fired a plastic bullet at a woman wielding an axe after a six-hour standoff in Edinburgh.

The 48-year-old was hit with a baton round after running towards officers and a member of the public at Craigmillar Castle in March.

Police had been called hours earlier by a man who said he had been chased into woods by the woman carrying the axe.

The Police Investigations and Review Commissioner (Pirc) said in a report published yesterday the police response had been proportionate.

The woman was struck on the thigh with the plastic bullet, temporarily disabling her and enabling officers to remove the axe and arrest her.

All incidents involving a firearm are referred to the Pirc as a matter of course.

In its report, the watchdog said: “The incident began at 12:25pm when a member of the public telephoned Police Scotland to report that the woman had chased him in the woods of Craigmillar Castle armed with an axe.

“Police officers quickly attended at the scene and contained the woman and the surrounding area.

“Over the course of the next six hours, a number of police officers and a friend of the woman unsuccessfully attempted to negotiate with her to surrender the axe.

“These attempts all met with further threats from her. When the woman ran towards officers and a member of the public apparently intent on striking them with the axe, the armed officer discharged the baton round. She was arrested and later charged with a number of offences.”

It is rare for Police Scotland to shoot plastic bullets. Only three baton rounds have been fired by the national force so far this year.

Chief Superintendent Matt Richards said: “Our officers acted courageously in a dynamic situation and put themselves in harm’s way in order to protect the public.

“When faced with a challenging situation, they acted proportionately and with minimal force in order to ensure the safety of the public and emergency services staff in attendance. I have no doubt that their professional response ensured that any potential risk to the public was minimised.

“Our authorised firearms officers are highly trained to deal with volatile situations and will only use force when absolutely necessary.

“We have a number of options available to us so that we can bring incidents such as these to a safe conclusion and our priority remains keeping people safe and preserving life. I commend these officers’ actions.”