Concern over Taser guns for police

Lives could be lost if police officers in Northern Ireland are issued with 50,000-volt Taser guns, it was claimed today. Politicians and human rights campaigners have urged the Policing Board to extend the period of public consultation on the controversial move from two to 12 weeks. Last year 61 people were killed in the US after being shot with the stun guns and experts have expressed concern about their impact on vulnerable groups.


Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) Policing Board member Alex Attwood said more time should be set aside to consider the matter when the board meets in Belfast today. The West Belfast MLA said: "There has not been enough consultation and there is not enough evidence to justify their introduction.

"We want to see a less lethal option." Mr Attwood said safer alternatives included water cannons and CS spray. Patrick Corrigan, Amnesty International`s Northern Ireland Programme Director, claimed vulnerable groups such as children, the disabled, pregnant women and the mentally ill were particularly at risk. He said: "Our research in the US shows that Tasers can kill.

"Arming all PSNI officers with a potentially lethal device that delivers a 50,000 volt electric shock, causing the subject to collapse in `intolerable pain`, would not be a wise or welcome move.

"There should be no consideration of such a move without a full, public inquiry into the safety of Tasers and their potential impact on policing here."A new report by the pressure group revealed 152 people have died in the US after being shot since 2001.Most of those who died were subjected to multiple or prolonged shots.Mr Corrigan added: "The research apparently being relied upon by the Policing Board is just not rigorous enough.

"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."

But DUP Policing Board Ian Paisley Jnr said Tasers were designed to protect the public from suspected criminals. The North Antrim MLA said: "I approve of any weapon that can be used under properly controlled circumstances to protect people and protect property.

"If the police went out with olive branches and gym shoes Amnesty International would be opposed to them."

Mr Paisley said the issue was an operational matter for the PSNI and not one for the board.