Scotland: Amnesty concern as man dies following taser and baton round shooting

Amnesty International expressed concern after a man died in County Durham, three days after he was shot with a Taser electro-shock weapon and a baton round.

Brian Loan, 47, is believed to be the first person in the UK to die after being shocked with a Taser. A Home Office post-mortem reportedly found that he had died of natural causes.

This news comes just three weeks after an Amnesty International seminar on tasers was held at the Scottish Parliament, highlighting the potential lethal effects of tasers.

Rosemary Burnett, Amnesty International Scotland Programme Director said:

“Brian Loan’s death only underlines concerns that we have consistently voiced about the safety of electro-shock Taser weapons.

“There must be a prompt, impartial and independent investigation into whether tasers are in reality a non-lethal weapon, as claimed by the manufacturers”

At the Amnesty seminar in Edinburgh, Dalia Hashad, Amnesty International’s USA Program Director reported that since 2001 over 200 people have died in the USA after being shot with tasers. Most were subjected to multiple or prolonged shocks. In 23 US cases coroners have listed the use of the taser as a cause or a contributory factor in death and in three cases in 2005 the taser was listed as a primary cause of death.

All of Scotland’s police forces have now either issued tasers to their firearms officers or are in the process of rolling them out. Amnesty International UK is not against the use of tasers by firearms officers, but warned against any move towards the routine arming of all police officers with taser weapons.

Rosemary Burnett said:

“Our research in the USA shows that Tasers can kill. Amnesty is worried that their increasing use in the UK is a slippery slope towards arming all police officers with Tasers. We want a public statement from the Scottish Executive Justice Department that these weapons will only ever be used by trained firearms officers, as an alternative to firearms.

“Arming all UK police officers with a potentially-lethal device that delivers a 50,000 volt electric shock, causing the subject to collapse in ‘intolerable pain’, would be a massive change to UK policing – from ‘policing by consent’ to ‘compliance through pain’.”

Amnesty International believes that there may be further deaths in the USA where the taser cannot be ruled out as a possible factor. Recent studies have cited the need for more research into potential adverse effects from taser shocks on people who are agitated or under the influence of drugs, or who are subjected to multiple or prolonged shocks.

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