The police tasered me – what can I do?
Conducted Energy Devices, also known as ‘Tasers’, were introduced for use by the police in 2003. Since then, policing has seen an increase in their use and the use of Tasers doubled from 17,000 incidents in 2017/2018 to almost 32,000 incidents in 2019/2020. However, in the majority of these cases, the weapon is not discharged.
The National Police Chief’s Council states a Taser is a ‘less lethal weapon designed to temporarily incapacitate a subject with an electrical current’, the weapon being a ‘tactical option available when dealing with an incident with the potential for conflict.’ Given the potential for serious injury it is obvious that the use of Tasers should be subject to strict rules to ensure appropriate use.
The use of a Taser is a use of force, and the police are empowered to use reasonable force only for the purpose of preventing crime, or effecting the lawful arrest of offenders or suspected offenders. Whether force is reasonable is assessed by several criteria, including whether any force was justified at all and whether it was excessive in the circumstances it was used.
When are police allowed to use Tasers?
Tasers can be powerful weapons that can prove to be extremely dangerous, so when exactly is it reasonable for Tasers to be fired?
Tasers can only be used in response to an identified threat. They cannot be used by the police to gain compliance when somebody will not do what they have asked, especially when the police’s instructions are not linked to any threat posed.
It is surprising then that a recent Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) report (https://www.policeconduct.gov.uk/sites/default/files/Documents/research-learning/IOPC_Taser_review_2021.pdf) on police use of Tasers showed that in a quarter of cases involving Tasers referred to them for investigation, evidence was found that police used Tasers to gain compliance. The IOPC also expressed concern over the “increasing use of Tasers on children, and on people with mental health or drug and alcohol issues.” The IOPC also stated, more recently (https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2021/aug/25/black-people-more-likely-to-be-tasered-for-longer-police-watchdog-finds) that there is a pattern of more excessive Tasering of people in distress, and Black people are more likely to be Tasered for longer than white people.
What can I do if I’ve been Tasered?
Unlawful use of Tasers can cause severe pain, lifelong injury and in some cases has even been found to have contributed or was relevant to the victim’s death. So, what can victims and their families do when unlawful Taser use has led to injury?
If the police have used a Taser against you or somebody you know and you feel its use cannot be justified, contact our Human Rights team today to explore what legal remedies may be available to you, including complaints to pursue disciplinary proceedings against the officers involved, or civil claims to obtain compensation.