Taser death in the UK

The tragic death of Dale Burns is rightly being investigated by the Independent Police Complaints Commission.  I hope – as I’m sure his family and friends also do – that this investigation is thorough and comprehensive and can provide real answers as to what caused Dale’s death.

This death has triggered concerns for us here at Amnesty – particularly given that Mr Burns appeared to be a healthy man in his 20s – as we've been monitoring the use of Taser both here in the UK and in North America for several years. 

In the USA for example, since 2001 Amnesty has recorded the deaths of more than 450 people in the United States who died after they were struck by a Taser.

Clearly, we don’t as yet have full details, so it’s impossible to say whether the use of Taser was in keeping with international human rights and police guidelines.   This case has certainly raised questions over how exactly the Taser was used.

However The Mirror reports that Dale Burns was shocked three times.  That in itself is concerning. Just one shock of the Taser sends 50,000 volts of electricity through a person’s body, usually causing him to collapse and lose control of his bodily functions.  If it does emerge that Mr Burns was Tasered three times, it will be really important to ascertain whether this  was necessary and proportionate to the circumstances which the police faced.

As mentioned in The Guardian and The Telegraph, Amnesty has repeatedly insisted that Tasers are potentially lethal and as a result they should only be used in circumstances where the person poses a serious threat to loss of life or of causing very serious injury. 

We’ve also insisted that these weapons should only be used by officers who are trained to the same rigorous, ongoing and intensive standards as specialist firearms officers.

Of course Amnesty’s not opposed to the police’s use of Taser.  Of course, there are going to be times when Tasers are necessary, and the police have an enormous responsibility to protect not only themselves but the community at large.  But in order for them to best do so, they must ensure that they use the right weapon at the right time. And that that are provided with the highest possible standards of training before they are armed with these weapons.   

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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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