28 March 2006

New police weapon causes concern


Concern about the proposed use of the Taser "stun gun" by the police in Northern Ireland has been expressed by a human rights watchdog.

The Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission was responding to a Policing Board request for views on the weapon.

Chief commissioner Monica McWilliams said not enough thought had been given to the impact of Tasers on children or those with mental health problems.

The board is to make a decision on the introduction of the Taser on Tuesday.

It had been proposed that Tasers be made available on a limited, pilot basis as a "less lethal alternative to the use of firearms in one-to-one situations".

Professor McWilliams criticised the speed with which it had been planned to introduce the Taser to Northern Ireland.

She said it "was clear from the information provided by the Policing Board" that a case had not been made, in a limited way or otherwise, for the introduction of Tasers.

"The short consultation period has not allowed for sufficient involvement of this commission or other organisations to assess this crucial decision," she said.

"We strongly urge the Policing Board to take more time to consider whether or not to introduce Tasers, to provide more detailed information as part of a consultation process, and ensure that it hears a wide range of views before taking a final decision."

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