The recent reports regarding the Police’s use of tasers is cause for concern that the Police are acting unlawfully.
Last week, during the Dale Farm eviction, two officers used their taser guns against those protesting. It is the first reported incident of the Police using their taser guns in the management of a public disorder and as a result, there are calls for the actions of the Police at Dale Farm to be investigated (see The Independent, Friday 20 October 2011).
The Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) guidelines indicate that the discharge of a taser must be “proportionate, lawful, necessary and non-discriminate, in all circumstances.” It refers officers to the “Conflict Management Model,” for assistance in determining when the use of a taser may be appropriate. It is “one way” of ensuring that “the conflict is dealt with in a logical and progressive manner.” This model is a basic five step process suggesting that officers consider:
1. the information/intelligence received;
2. the threat;
3. the powers and policy;
4. Tactical options;
Did the Police act appropriately in the Dale Farm circumstances? It is reported that they acted very early (see The Independent, Friday 20 October 2011). This may be indicative of a lack of consideration as to the alternative actions available and thus, a violation of not only the ACPO’s policy but human rights legislation.
In the case, Ribitsch v Austria (18896/91)  ECHR 55 (4 December 1995), the court held, “in respect of a person deprived of his liberty, any recourse to physical force which has not been made strictly necessary by his own conduct diminishes human dignity and is in principle an infringement of right set forth in Article 3 [prohibition of torture] of the Convention” (The European Convention of Human Rights). Thus the key question is whether the Police’s use of force in the form of a taser at Dale Farm was strictly necessary by the individual’s own conduct?
The heightened concern over the incident is fuelled by the growing body of information that suggests that the use of tasers can have serious consequences such as an increased risk of heart attacks. This comes following three deaths after arrest during which tasers and/or pepper spray was used in just eight days in August this year.
It is vital that the use of tasers be scrutinized to the highest level. A review of the Police’s action is absolutely necessary to ensure human rights compliance. A failure to carry out such as review will breach domestic and international legislation rendering the Police liable for human rights abuses.
24 October 2011