Shocking justice is not the solution

Less than 48 hours ago I posted a blog saying why I didn’t think it was a good idea for Tasers to be made more widely available to officers.

It’s incredible then that less than a day later we hear of a man on a London train being shot with a Taser nine times, after police suspected he was carrying a weapon in his briefcase. In actual fact, he was carrying a 99p toy gun.

According to the Evening Standard, Justice Livingston was dressed as a cowboy – complete with Stetson hat and toy pistol, while the Guardian said Livingston was dressed in a long black coat and black hat and the toy gun was in his briefcase.

The Guardian reports that Justice had bought the toy gun as a present for his son. The Huffington Post reports that officers fired the Taser at Justice's chest four times. And when that didn’t work, they fired three more charges into the back of his head.

Livingston was also Tasered repeatedly in the leg. The fact that the Taser shocks to the chest didn’t work is most certainly a good thing. There are guidelines to avoid shooting the Taser at the chest. As we have seen in several cases in the United States, Tasering someone in the chest could have potentially lethal consequences.

According to the police as reported in the Daily Mail, officers boarded the train and made their way through the carriages to the male suspect who had his hands in his pockets. “'The suspect moved forward towards the officers whilst shouting and refused to remove his hands from his pockets. Attempts by the officers to physically restrain him failed so they deployed Taser.”

The two reports appear so different from each other that it is a good thing that a) there were eyewitnesses and b) a full investigation will be taking place. But the thing is, once again we have seen how a Taser has been used in an instance when it shouldn’t have been. At least nine times.

By no means am I belittling the very tough job which police have to do. Often they have to make a split second decision in order to protect their lives and the lives of others. It is not easy. But in recent years (notably since these weapons were made more widely available) we are hearing too many accounts of when Tasers were wrongly used.

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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.
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