UK: Tasers inquiry urgently needed
A robust parliamentary inquiry into the police use of Tasers is urgently needed, said a leading body of rights-based agencies today following the death of 48-year-old Dalian Atkinson for which two West Mercia police officers are under criminal investigation.
This latest incident follows a series of other controversial cases involving the police use of Taser, including the tragic death of 23-year-old Jordon Begley, in which an inquest ruled that use of Taser and restraint had materially contributed to his death.
Writing to Keith Vaz MP chair of the Home Affairs Select committee, Amnesty International, Children’s Rights Alliance, the Omega Research Foundation and University of Exeter researcher called for a Home Affairs Select Committee Inquiry into whether existing safeguards on Taser use are sufficient, including policy guidance on when Taser can be used, sufficient training to officers and scrutiny and accountability mechanisms.
This is particularly vital in the context of an increasing number of UK police officers who use Tasers across the UK and known risks associated with exposure to Taser, particularly against vulnerable groups such as children or those with underlying medical conditions or mental health concerns.
Amnesty International’s UK Arms Programme Director Oliver Sprague said:
“Following a series of tragic incidents, serious questions must now be asked. We need a thorough investigation to determine whether these weapons are being used properly and responsibly, particularly given the increasing number of these weapons on our streets.
“Tasers can be a valuable tool, but they are extremely dangerous and can kill, especially when misused. This is why it’s important that there is absolute clarity in when and how these weapons are used and the toughest and highest professional standards in place to train, monitor and evaluate its use.”
Abi Dymond, an ESRC funded researcher at the University of Exeter said:
“It is important to ensure that the training and policy around Taser - and, indeed, all police use of force - is striking an appropriate balance between enabling officers to use their discretion, and giving them sufficient guidance on when its use is appropriate.
“It is also important to ensure that, once Taser has been used, robust accountability mechanisms are in place, both inside and outside the force in question. There’s a real need for an informed, transparent discussion on these important topics – and, as such, a Home Affairs Select Committee Inquiry would be most welcome.”
Forty-eight-year-old former footballer Dalian Atkinson died after being shot with a Taser by police at his father's house on Monday 15 August. Mr Atkinson went into cardiac arrest on his way to hospital. The IPCC is currently investigating the case.
As part of the review, the coalition of agencies call for consideration to be given to the following concerns:
- The targeting of vulnerable groups, including children and people with mental health conditions
- The use on ethnic and minority groups
- The accountability and review mechanisms in place post-usage
Director of Children's Rights Alliance for England Louise King said:
“Dalian Atkinson’s sad death should act as a wake-up call to the Government on the use of Tasers on everyone, especially vulnerable people such as children or those with mental health issues. Just two months ago, a UN body called on the UK to prohibit the use of Tasers on children. Tasers cause intolerable pain. We know through our work with children and young people that even being threatened with a Taser by a police officer is extremely distressing – and this is happening to children as young as 11. Taser use on children must be banned. At the very least, the regulations, training, and transparency around the use of Taser on children must be significantly improved. “
Notes to Editors
- Abi Dymond is currently an ESRC funded PhD Candidate at the University of Exeter. She is also a Research Associate at the UK NGO the Omega Research Foundation. Between June 2015 and June 2016 she was awarded an ESRC funded research placement with the National Police Chiefs' Council, conducting research for the Use of Force Reporting Review, led by Chief Constable David Shaw, and in 2014 received travel costs from Taser International to attend the Annual Conference of the Institute for the Prevention of in Custody Deaths and to visit their Headquarters in Scottsdale, Arizona.
- The Children's Rights Alliance for England believes that human rights are a powerful tool in making life better for children. We're one charity working with over 150 organisational and individual members to promote children's rights making us one of the biggest child rights organisations in the world. We fight for children's rights by listening to what children say, carrying out research to understand what children are going through and using the law to challenge those who violate children's rights.
- The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child published its report on the UK on June 9th 2016. This followed its examination of the UK Government on how well it is meeting its child rights obligations as set out in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which the UK ratified in 1991
- Amnesty International is the world's largest human rights organisation with more than eight million supporters worldwide.