10 March 2006

SDLP blows a fuse over stun guns

Belfast Telegraph
10 March 2006

The introduction of 50,000-volt stun guns by the PSNI will be opposed on the Policing Board by the SDLP.

Board member Alex Attwood hit out at the "headlong rush" to introduce TASERs and said there are concerns about their safety.

"The SDLP is totally opposed to the introduction of TASERs - even for the limited purposes that the PSNI wants them," he said.

PSNI Chief Constable Sir Hugh Orde recently approached the board about buying a dozen of the weapons, which use jolts of electricity to incapacitate people.

Sir Hugh wants them as a less lethal option than firearms. He told the board specially trained officers would use the US-made weapons.

TASERs deliver six watts of electricity at 50,000 volts through two barbed electrodes that attach themselves to the targeted person.

But critics of the device say it has been associated with more than 100 deaths in the US and Canada. According to reports, TASERs have been recorded as a factor in 15 deaths in the US.

The weapons were approved for use in Britain last year. But Mr Attwood said: "There is also a dearth of proper research about their safety - especially their effects on children."

He said the time set by the board for public consultation - two-and-a- half weeks - is "woefully insufficient" and wants it extended.

A spokeswoman for the Policing Board said it is "essential for the police to have access to a range of equipment to meet difficult and often dangerous policing situations."

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