Amnesty call for investigation into Strathclyde taser pilot

Amnesty International has today [Thursday 21st October] called on the Scottish Government and the Strathclyde Police Authority to provide a thorough evaluation, including the role of Scottish Ministers, of the Taser pilot which went ahead despite legal advice gained by Amnesty, that the pilot was ‘unlawful’.   The six month scheme to extend the provision of Taser electro-shock weapons to 30 non-firearms officers with only three days’ training, in the Stewart Street and Rutherglen & Cambuslang areas of Strathclyde, finished yesterday [Wednesday 20th October]. The pilot scheme went ahead without written authorisation from Scottish Ministers.   John Watson, Scottish Programme Director for Amnesty International, said:    "Tasers are dangerous weapons, inherently open to abuse, and that is why the law sets out various political controls on their use by police. The Firearms Act clearly states that new police deployments of Taser must have written authorisation from Government Ministers. And court judgements have made it clear that police use of Tasers must be bound by an appropriate legal and administrative framework. Alas Strathclyde Police do not want to be bound by these controls, and the Scottish Government are failing to exercise them.    "We will be interested to see how Strathclyde Police approach the evaluation of their Taser pilot. It certainly will not be enough to call the scheme a success just because there have been no disasters. What can a six-month pilot tell us about the longer term shift in policing culture that would arise from routinely arming officers on the beat?. We need a thorough evaluation of the scheme, including the role of Scottish Ministers in determining public policy on such a critical issue.   "Amnesty International believes that Tasers have a role to play in modern policing, but that the appropriate place for firearms is in the hands of appropriately trained Firearms Officers and with decisions to use Tasers taken by senior officers. It is controls such as these which have set our policing apart from countries such as the USA and Australia, where the use of Tasers to force compliance on non-violent subjects has become commonplace. The Strathclyde pilot reduces the threshold for use of Taser, removes key safeguards governing their use and normalises the presence of these weapons on Scottish streets.”

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