Police Ombudsman to assess whether taser cases are in public interest

Any time a taser is discharged by police in Northern Ireland, the PSNI chief constable notifies the Ombudsman's Office.
Any time a taser is discharged by police in Northern Ireland, the PSNI chief constable notifies the Ombudsman's Office.

The Police Ombudsman has agreed to amend its process for investigating discharges of tasers by PSNI officers.

As a matter of course, the Ombudsman probes all discharges of firearms by police in Northern Ireland.

However, the News Letter has learned that, following discussions with police, the current system is to be streamlined in a bid to free up resources,

Rather than investigating all instances of tasers being deployed, the Ombudsman’s Office will now consider whether a full probe in necessary on a case by case basis.

A spokesperson for the Ombudsman’s Office said: “The PSNI will continue to notify the Police Ombudsman’s Office about all firearms discharges, including tasers.

“Police Ombudsman staff will conduct preliminary enquiries and assess whether a full investigation is necessary.

“Only in cases where the Police Ombudsman is of the view that an investigation is required in the public interest, will TASER discharges now be subject to a full investigation.”

Welcoming the move, Daniel McCrossan MLA said: “It would be easy to say that the discharge of a taser is not as serious as other firearms. However, we have witnessed a number of serious cases involving police tasers in the UK which resulted in the loss of life. In these cases an Ombudsman investigation is absolutely critical.

“Considering the significant financial pressures facing the justice system, the fact that the Ombudsman were adjudicating and spending money on ‘straight forward’ cases with no alarm raised is an issue of concern.

“However, I am now glad that a degree of common sense has been used by not elevating every non-lethal case involving tasers. Too much money is being spent on non-contentious issues or issues that are not in the public interest.”

Assistant chief constable Alan Todd added: “Electric discharge weapons such as tasers are an invaluable tool available to the PSNI.

“They provide an option for the use of less than lethal force in situations of high risk to the public, to individuals and to the police. Their use is accompanied by a high degree of accountability and so each time a taser is used there is an automatic notification to the Police Ombudsman.”