Friday, October 30, 2009

House Points: It's Taser time

Beat that "My Liberal Democrat News hasn't arrived yet" misery with this week's House Points.

Q&A on Tasers

Monday was Taser day, with both Norman Baker and Chris Huhne raising the subject at home office questions.

But what is a Taser?

So we’re using this patronising question-and-answer format are we? Tasers are weapons that use an electric current to disrupt the voluntary control of muscles in the people they are fired at. They deliver a massive charge of 50,000-volts and have been used by British police officers since April 2003.

Why should we be worried about them?

As Norman Baker pointed out, Tasers have been implicated in the deaths of more than 300 people in the United States. Amnesty International considers that the use of the Tasers in many of these cases was excessive, amounting in some cases to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. Look into it further and you find that in America there have been cases of pregnant women and children as young as six being Tasered.

What did the minister say in reply?

He said Tasers had been used in Britain 4818 times up to March 2009, and no serious injuries or deaths had been reported. That is because the government has issued guidance to police forces, which “allows strong regulation of the use of Tasers”.

What do people do with these regulations? Stick them down the front of their shirts?

That’s more like it. This format might work after all.

But really it’s no laughing matter. In Canada, Amnesty has documented 17 cases where individuals have died after being stunned with police Tasers. In Australia an officer fired a Taser 28 times into a man who died minutes later.

Now the makers of the weapon have issued guidance advising police officers to avoid shooting suspects in the chest, saying it could pose an extremely low risk of an “adverse cardiac event”.

But in Britain Tasers are issued only to police officers trained to use firearms, aren’t they? So there’s no need to worry.

That was the case when they first came in, but Jacqui Smith was keen they should become standard issue for all officers. It’s no wonder Chris Huhne talked about “the slippery slide towards US-style armed policing in this country.”

Whatever happened to Jacqui Smith?

1 comment:

Tristan said...

Not to worry, obviously trained police will never misuse their power.
Not at all.

Those police officers who have abused tasers weren't trained at all...