The Home Office needs to come clean about taser deaths

Greater Manchester police has referred itself to the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) following the death of a young man after attending a call out.

Taser police

Greater Manchester police has referred itself to the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) following the death of a young man after attending a call out.

Jordan Begley, aged 23, was shot by police with a stun gun this week after police were called to reports of a man armed with a knife. His friends deny that he was armed, and the details of this situation will hopefully come out in the IPCC report.

The Home Office has published routine statistics on the deployment of stun guns in England and Wales since its introduction in England in Wales in 2004, after an initial 12 month pilot.

The deployment figures do not refer to actual use, and Home Office suggests that the weapon is only fired by police in 30 per cent of situations where it is deployed.

Tasers

This routine referral to the IPCC following each death by British police is an insignificant response, and the lack of published government data on deaths caused by tasers is a human rights issue. The Home Office should now investigate the numbers of deaths following deployment of tasers in England and Wales, the causal factors, and actions taken to review and improve their deployment since they were introduced.

Stun guns are designed to deliver two actions when fired: firstly it causes rapid muscle immobilisation causing the person to fall; and secondly, it delivers a pain experience, used to quieten the person.

It is intended to be a non-lethal weapon, but there have been many deaths reported following its use in England and Wales, but no research or inquiry has been conducted that takes a high level review of all of the cases.

We currently do not know from published government data the annual pattern of the use of tasers nationally. We do not know how many have died after being shot by tasers since 2003 in England and Wales, and the specific factors contributing to their deaths.

In many cases, the circumstances are contentious with vulnerable victims, and inconclusive inquest results. The demographic background of victims need to be included in this study as a high number appear to come from disadvantaged, poor and vulnerable backgrounds.

What is the picture internationally?

Stun guns are in prolific use internationally, and Amnesty International undertook analysis of stun gun deaths in the United States.

Five hundred deaths since 2001 following the use of tasers in the USA is an exceedingly high rate for a non-lethal weapon. That a human rights organisation conducted this research suggests that US government data on deaths following shooting with stun guns is also the subject of secrecy as it is in the UK.

No one is suggesting that police should not be provided with appropriate technology and equipment to enable a proportionate response to threats, in order to protect themselves and the public.

However, there should be comprehensive and continuous evaluation of the technology, and an inquiry into the potential harms where tasers are used on vulnerable members of the public. Results should be placed in the public domain.

In France there is also concern that police appear to use tasers with impunity.

Again, the responsibility rests with a human rights group, this time, France24, to lead on concerns following significant increases in uses and abuses of the technology (in one cited case, the weapon was discharged by police after someone displayed a ‘hostile attitude’).

There are concerns in France about the serious injuries and deaths caused by tasers used by police.

Jordan Begley’s death should be the one that leads to proper accountability and responsibility for the use of this weapon, and should lead to a comprehensive, independent review of the deaths of those who have died in this callous way after police shootings.

3 Responses to “The Home Office needs to come clean about taser deaths”

  1. Ian

    I read an article regarding the 10 deaths involved in taser use. Is the writer of this article aware of how the people died? It appears a few shot themselves and died of wounds, a few had stabbed or cut themselves, and one or two may have been on drugs. It is never nice to die, would the writer of this article be happy to go confront a gunman or knife wielding person with a stick and handcuffs??? I thought not, you stay safe behind your desk and criticise everyone else while safely out of harms way. Grow up and get realistic, 10 deaths is a low number… How many people do you think would be dead from these gunmen or knife wielders if they were not stopped?

  2. Steve Tuttle

    This is not an accurate representation to TASER technology. First, we do know the number of deaths in the UK involving a TASER device and there are there have been no causal links between the 5 deaths while 2 further cases are under independent investigation. That’s coming clean.

    Next, you state that Amnesty has cited 500 plus deaths. However if you read the report, Amnesty is on record stating 60 of the 500+ deaths are cited as causal, contributory or
    “weren’t ruled out” — a far cry from 500+ (read Amnesty’s reports) as that doesn’t mention that the remaining cases were not caused or contributed by TASER device. How about you come clean AFTER you read the full report in Amnesty’s own words?

    Your closing asks for Jordan Begley’s tragic death to lead to accountability, responsibility and a comprehensive, independent review of the deaths of those who have died. We’ll gladly take that as will British police any day. But you need to accept the answers. What if
    something else is the cause of death? Will the cry for blaming TASER devices end their? I doubt it as you clearly won’t accept the so called “routine referral to the IPCC” as you call this an insignificant response.

    How about coming clean in that you are incorrect about saying that since a human rights organisation conducted research suggests that US government data on deaths following shooting with stun guns is also the subject of secrecy as it is in the UK. Secrecy, really? Have you used PubMed to look up all the peer reviewed studies on TASER technology? Have you looked at the studies by the Home Office and DOMILL?

    But more to the point there’s an independent five-year study by the U.S. Department of Justice that is published to the public – please look it up as it’s called, “Study of Deaths Following Electro Muscular Disruption” or look up the “Final Findings From the Expert Panel on the Safety of Conducted Energy Devices.” You might even be surprised that TASER devices are the MOST studied less-lethal tool on an officers belt.

    The point is that while our technology isn’t risk free it does save lives – more than 110,000 to date. With 107 countries using our technology it’s not an unknown as there are now more than 1.93 million field uses as well as 1.4 million voluntary exposures.

    To infer there are unknown secrets behind TASER is dirty pool. Perhaps you should come clean.

  3. Jacko

    Oh the big, bad police, trying to protect themselves and the public against violent, aggresive scumbags.

Leave a Reply