On Air, tackling Tasers and challenging Control Orders
“What did you have for breakfast?” the nice man from ITV asked me. Of course, he wasn’t really interested in my answer, only in using it to check that the sound levels were set correctly. I could have answered that I’d a bowl of Fruit & Fibre and a local radio interview because that’s how I began my Monday.
Despite the earliness of the hour I quite enjoy taking part by phone in the BBC’s local breakfast shows. Some are much more serious than others and you always get a flavour of the region you are speaking to from listening to traffic and weather bulletins or the preceding news story as you wait for the presenter to come to you.
Today I was responding to the further rollout of Taser stun guns by police in Avon and Somerset.
We’ve repeatedly warned that Tasers are potentially lethal weapons that should only be used in very limited circumstances, by a small number of highly specialist officers where strictly necessary to protect life or avoid very serious injuries. Yet soon Avon & Somerset police will have 300 officers ready to carry Tasers, including traffic cops and officers in remote areas.
The man interviewing me on a green beside the Thames for the local ITV news recalled the recent incident in Nottingham – still under investigation – when mobile phone footage appeared to show a man already on the ground and surrounded by four police officers being Tasered for a second time. Will we see more incidents like this? Let’s hope not.
Local interviews can be as challenging as any other but I have probably done more interviews on Tasers than any other single subject and today’s were straightforward. My colleague Steve Ballinger isn’t feeling quite so sanguine about his appearance before the microphone this morning.
Radio 5 Live's Victoria Derbyshire had an exclusive interview with a man known as AR, a Libyan refugee who has been subject to a Control Order since 2008 due to the Home Secretary's suspicion that he is involved in Islamic terrorism. He has not been given a fair trial nor charged with a criminal offence. Victoria quizzed him on what life is like under a Control Order, then went into a debate on the rights and wrongs of the Control Order regime with Steve and one Douglas Murray, Director of the Centre for Social Cohesion.
This came as something of a surprise to Steve, who had been informed by 5 Live that he would just be talking to the presenter.
There followed quite a heated debate, in which Mr Murray appeared to suggest that it was okay to return people to countries like Jordan and Libya, despite their well-documented human rights abuses; that the UK's opposition to torture and to returning people to countries that use torture was the result of laws forced on the UK by Europe; and that the restrictions of a Control Order were not all that severe and amounted to little more than being made to stay at home for some parts of the day!
Steve reiterated Amnesty's concerns that everyone is entitled to a fair trial and that torture is banned by international law, meaning that the UK has an obligation not to return people to countries where they may face such ill-treatment. And anyone who doubts the potential impact of a Control Order upon the person concerned and their family should read this interview with Mahmoud Abu Rideh's wife, though it now looks as though he will finally be granted a travel document and allowed to leave the UK.
Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.