Taser deaths raise concern in Britain

26 Aug


The extreme techniques employed by the British police to capture suspects have sparked serious concerns among the public and campaigners who have been warning about a “disturbing rise” in arrest deaths.

The warnings come after three people were killed by Taser guns and pepper spray in separate confrontations with police during the past eight days.

The UK police launched inquiries into two deaths which happened during separate arrest attempts in Cheshire and Bolton, where officers deployed Tasers and pepper spray to facilitate their arrest scheme.

Last week, the first death happened in Cambria, where a body builder, Dale Burns, became the first person in Britain to die after being subdued by a Taser. He was shot three times with a 50,000-volt stun gun.

On Monday, a 25-year-old amateur rugby enthusiast, Jacob Michael, collapsed and died after he was hit in the face with pepper spray and later subdued by up to 11 officers as he tried to avoid arrest for affray.

On Tuesday, a 53-year-old, named locally as Philip Hulmes, was hit with electric probes from the police weapon after barricading himself in his house.

Home Office figures show that Tasers were deployed 1,279 times over a three-month period between January and March 2010 compared to 594 times between April to June 2009.

Campaign group Inquest said there had already been five deaths in circumstances that involved police use of force excluding firearms this year – compared with four throughout 2010.

“For too long there has been a pattern of cases where inquest juries have found overwhelming evidence of unlawful and excessive use of force or gross neglect yet the police do not seem to have learnt the lessons from these previous deaths”, said Helen Shaw, a spokeswoman for the organization.

“Whilst we await the outcome of the inquests and investigations into these recent deaths it is imperative that the police are reminded that they cannot act with impunity”, added Helen.

Campaigners say police officers are resorting to the horrible weapons very swiftly and recklessly.

“I believe Tasers are being used far too readily by police forces. There needs to be a recognition that Tasers are a lethal weapon and should only be used in very limited circumstances, if at all”, said Sophie Khan, a London-based lawyer with GT Stewart Solicitors.


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