Why has Taser use more than doubled in two years?

By Iain Gould, Solicitor

Picture of Iain Gould, Solicitor (lawyer) and specialist in actions against the police claims.
Iain Gould, Solicitor (lawyer)

A Home Office report which was published yesterday confirms that Taser use more than doubled between 2009-2001, following the issue of 10,000 more Tasers to the police once the initial testing period ended in 2008.

The latest figures which cover the period 2009-2011, unsurprisingly show that as the police have been issued with more Tasers, the ‘stun-guns’ have been more extensively used. Figures for 2011-2013 are expected to show a further increase.

In 2011, 25.7% of the time the Taser was discharged, causing injury to the victim. 

Police assault using a Taser

Naturally, the public should be concerned especially as the Independent Police Complaints Commission is currently investigating three deaths where Tasers were used.

On numerous occasions I have written about the police’s seemingly uncontrolled use of these potentially lethal weapons (you can read my previous posts here, here, here, and here).

I am being contacted on a regular basis by potential clients who have suffered a police assault by officers using their Tasers. We should not forget that these ‘statistics’ are actually people, some of whom have had their lives irreparably changed as a result.

Picture of a Taser being discharged.

Police assault by Taser causes serious injuries

In itself, 50,000 volts being shot through a person’s body is enough to cause serious injury, heart problems, and psychological upset. But for some unfortunate victims, the more serious injuries arise from the secondary impact caused by being Tasered.

Having been Tasered, the body freezes in temporary paralysis, causing the victim to become imbalanced and fall forward, giving rise to a risk of serious head injuries, including brain damage.

A client I am currently representing was shot in the back by the police with a Taser as he ran away. This caused him to fall forward and land, face-first, on the concrete ground below. He was unable to protect himself because he could not raise his arms due to the paralysis, and lost or damaged 5 teeth as well as sustaining facial and other injuries.

His injuries have already cost him thousands of pounds in dental treatment, he is now facially disfigured, and feels that his life will never be the same.

Today’s BBC Radio interview about Taser use

I was interviewed today by BBC Radio Merseyside to provide my thoughts.

You can hear the BBC Radio interview in full by clicking on the ‘play’ arrow below:

While I readily accept that, in certain situations, the use of a Taser may be appropriate, I am concerned that the training police officers receive should stress more strongly that Tasers should be a weapon of last resort, and should be used in extreme circumstances only.

The Association of Chief Police Officer’s guidelines state that a Taser can only be used where officers face violence or when the police are in a situation where the threat of violence is so severe they need to use force to protect the public, themselves, and/ or the person they are dealing with.

Certainly in many of my clients’ cases I would argue that:

  • they present no threat whatsoever, and
  • that the police have acted with undue haste, and
  • in some cases I have dealt with, the police have exaggerated the threat and fabricated an account to justify Taser use and excuse the police assault.

Hopefully the figures presented today will generate further public awareness and debate as to whether police officers should be routinely equipped with a Taser and in what circumstances such a weapon should be used.

If you have been injured as a result of a police assault using a Taser, contact me using the online form below, on 0151 933 5525, or via my firm’s website. Alternatively, read more about me, my website or blog for more information about actions against the police claims.

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Image of Taser cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo by Marcelo Freixo 50123: http://flickr.com/photos/marcelofreixo/8188041975/

Why another Taser assault exposes police failings

By Iain Gould, Solicitor

I was disappointed to read yet another story of police officers using Tasers to restrain innocent people.

Tasers are stun guns used by the police to shoot 50,000 volts of electricity into a person’s body. This has the effect of temporarily paralysing them, and can cause nausea, loss of bowel and bladder control, vomiting and on rare occasions, a heart attack. The police can use these weapons to arrest someone provided they can show that such force is reasonable and proportionate.

Blind man Tasered

The Daily Mail reports how Colin Farmer, a 61-year-old blind man carrying his white stick, was walking slowly in Chorley, Lancashire (he has had two strokes and is partially paralysed) when he was Tasered in the back by a policeman looking for a man carrying a samurai sword. Even after shouting ‘I’m blind’ Mr. Farmer’s back was knelt upon by the policeman while he put handcuffs on with such force that they broke Mr. Farmer’s bracelet.

You can watch Mr. Farmer being interviewed here. I think you will agree he does not come across as a knife wielding threat to society.

Mr. Farmer describes the police officer who Tasered him as ‘a thug’ and is taking legal action against the police force for the assault.

Amazingly, no disciplinary action was taken at the time against the officer by Lancashire Constabulary. Perhaps because of the publicity the matter has now been referred to the Independent Police Complaints Commission.

I have previously blogged on this issue, as I am now routinely receiving enquiries from people who have been subject to this form of police assault.

Police assault

In one case I am currently pursuing, my client Mr. M, a 51-year-old heavy-set, bald black man, was at home when two police officers knocked on the door. They asked his name, which he confirmed, but said that he was not the person they were looking for. My client shares the same name as his son, but does not resemble him physically. His son is 20 years younger, of slim build, with an ‘afro’ haircut and of mixed race.

The police officers ignored Mr. M and disregarded the fact that he bears no resemblance to his son, whose photograph they had seen before going to Mr. M’s house, and said they were there to arrest him for criminal damage.

Mr. M knew he had done nothing wrong and stepped back into his house. Echoing Mr. Farmer’s case, my client had his back to the police when he was Tasered, falling heavily to the floor where he was then handcuffed.

Even though Mr. M was in great pain, he begged the officers to get his personal identification. Once checked, they acknowledged their mistake. Unlike Mr. Farmer however, they then added insult to injury by arresting Mr. M with assaulting police officers and obstructing a constable in the course of his duties.

Although there were no grounds for this, he was taken to a local police station, detained, interviewed, and eventually released after 17 hours with no further action to be taken.

Not unsurprisingly, Mr. M is now pursuing a claim for police assault, unlawful arrest, trespass, false imprisonment and misfeasance in public office. I am confident he will be successful, resulting in thousands of pounds compensation being paid by the taxpayer as a result of the over-zealous use of a Taser by police officers, who then compounded the mistake by fabricating a story of assault to avoid blame.

Lack of police training

Both Colin Farmer’s and Mr. M’s case have striking similarities, not least being the lack of common sense being shown by the police officers. How can a white stick be confused for a samurai sword? How can a middle-aged, heavy-set man be confused for his son? Although the police are trained in the use of Tasers perhaps it is time a new chapter is added to the training manual: ‘How to use your brain’.

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Do Merseyside Police use excessive force with their Tasers?

By Iain Gould, Solicitor

I was saddened to hear about another Taser (‘stun gun’) attack by the police over the weekend.

In the early hours of Sunday morning, James McCarthy, a 22-year-old from the West Derby suburb Liverpool, was allegedly Tasered four times by a Merseyside Police officer. He was rushed to hospital by ambulance and is now in a ‘stable’ condition.

You can read the preliminary reports on the incident here.

I asked in my blog last year if the police are using tasers correctly. The Taser is a powerful and potentially deadly weapon. Training ought to emphasize the risks to the individuals concerned, especially if multiple discharges are made.

Given the physical and emotional trauma of just one discharge, if the family’s claim that Mr. McCarthy was Tasered four times is proven to be correct, it is difficult to imagine how that was a necessary, reasonable and proportionate use of force. If the police officers involved are shown to have used excessive force, serious disciplinary action and a compensation claim against the police ought to follow.

As a solicitor who specialises in these cases, I routinely receive instructions from people who have been victims of police brutality. Often my clients tell me that they pursue compensation claims so that the officers involved are disciplined and then trained properly about the use of force.  This, rather than the money they receive, often helps them come to terms with the emotional trauma caused by such a serious assault, which can linger long after the physical symptoms have resolved. It is not uncommon for people to become withdrawn, depressed and anxious after a Taser attack. The effects of being assaulted by the police, who represent authority and ought to be trusted, cannot be dismissed lightly.

Merseyside Police have rightly referred Sunday’s incident to the Independent Police Complaints Commission. Even if the IPCC find no evidence of wrongdoing, the fact that James McCarthy is still in hospital should serve to remind all police forces about the need for proper training, and for the officers issued with Tasers to think twice about their devastating effects before using them.

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Are the police using tasers correctly?

I read with interest about an 82 year man in West London who was tasered by the police.

A taser is the latest weapon in a police officer’s armoury. It is a stun-gun which when applied causes 50,000 volts of electricity to go through a victim’s body, side effects of which include temporary paralysis, nausea, amnesia, loss of bowel/bladder control, vomiting and in extreme cases, the heart can stop, occasionally resulting in death.

The police can use force (and therefore the taser) when affecting an arrest provided it is reasonable and proportionate.

It is in the public interest to establish whether the police have been given proper training and are applying their powers correctly. Can an 82 year old man be said to pose such a threat requiring the use of such excessive force?

I am currently pursuing a similar actions against the police claim for a 50 year old man. The police visited him late at night looking for his son. My client, a heavy set, bald, black man bears no resemblance to his 32 year old mixed race, curly haired son. The police, who had seen a picture and read a description of my client’s son, forced their way into my client’s home and indiscriminately tasered him in the back when he was retreating into his kitchen. At the time, he was entirely defenceless and posed no threat.

As well as the physical evidence in front of them, a simple ID check which they performed minutes later proved that my client was not the person they were looking for. Nevertheless, he was arrested for obstruction and assaulting a constable- this  is being cited to justify their over zealous behaviour. I am now working with my client to pursue his claim against the police.

I consider that both cases raise serious questions regarding the deployment of taser guns in arrest circumstances.

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