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

Amnesty International today (16 October) 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.

An Amnesty International UK spokesperson 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 his death.”

A March 2006 report from Amnesty International revealed that since June 2001, 152 people have died in the USA after being shot with tasers, 61 in 2005 alone. 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.

Over three-quarters of UK police forces have deployed tasers to firearms officers and some parts of the police have already called for wider deployment to all officers. Amnesty International UK warned against any move towards the routine arming of police officers with taser weapons.

A spokesperson 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 Home Office 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.

Studies conducted over the last year have not met Amnesty's criteria for an independent, impartial and comprehensive study. None of the studies has included an analysis of the deaths listed in Amnesty International's reports on taser use in the USA. The studies have been limited in scope and methodology and have relied mostly on data provided by one of the manufacturers of the weapons - Taser International - and police departments themselves.

Amnesty International said:

"Any study should be independent of any commercial or security interests and should be carried out by a reputable and independent party that has no connection to any manufacturer of these electro-shock devices.”

Background

Tasers are powerful electrical weapons used by over 7,000 of the 18,000 law enforcement agencies in the USA. They are designed to incapacitate by conducting 50,000 volts of electricity into an individual's body. The electrical pulses induce skeletal muscle spasms that immobilise and incapacitate the individual, causing them to fall to the ground.

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