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Thursday, November 05, 2009

RCMP defend Taser use on girl, 16

November 5, 2009
CBC News

A Selkirk, Man., RCMP officer denies any wrongdoing in the case of a teenage girl who says she was injured with a Taser while in police custody two years ago.

The incident, and a resulting lawsuit by the girl against the RCMP, the City of Selkirk, the province and the federal justice minister, have raised concerns about the use of Tasers by police on minors.

In a statement of defence obtained by CBC News on Wednesday, Const. Roger Gavel asks Manitoba Court of Queen's Bench to throw out the lawsuit, saying the use of the stun gun on the girl was legitimate.

"The actions of the RCMP members … were justified, and necessary, in the circumstances," the documents said.

Gavel's defence — written by a lawyer from the federal Department of Justice — was filed on Oct. 14.

The girl, who was 16 when taken to the Selkirk RCMP detachment on Nov. 3, 2007, is seeking an unspecified amount of financial damages for physical and emotional trauma. She cannot be named because of provisions in the Youth Criminal Justice Act.

The teenager was taken into custody after she and some friends were found drunk in her parents' van, which her mother had reported stolen.

In her statement of claim, the girl says she was put in a cell by several officers, and after punching or shoving one of them, was allegedly shoved onto the floor, knelt on by four officers, and hit with a stun gun in her thighs three times.

In the documents, Gavel admits that a stun gun was used, but only after "it became necessary to physically restrain [the girl, and] fit her with a spit mask."

Contrary to the girl's claims of being shocked numerous times, the documents said the Taser was "successfully applied" only once to the inside of the girl's thigh.

"[She] neither requested, nor presented as requiring, medical attention," the documents said.

The girl was only being held at the detachment at the request of her mother, who refused to come and take her home, the documents said.

No criminal charges were ever laid in connection to the stolen vehicle complaint, and no trial date for the lawsuit to be heard in court has been set.

Gavel and the attorney general claim powers granted them under the Intoxicated Persons Detention Act afforded them the authority to use force in this case.

Taser use on kids
After the lawsuit was filed, the teen's lawyer, Katherine Dunn, called for a moratorium on the use of stun guns on minors.

"There doesn’t seem to be any reason being brought forward why they’re not placing a moratorium on the use of Tasers against anyone, and particular, young people," Dunn told CBC News. "Because there has been incidents of deaths as a result of the use of Tasers," she said.

In early February, Ontario's child advocate called for the Ontario Provincial Police to stop using the devices after a 14-year-old girl with fetal alcohol syndrome was shocked while in police custody in Sioux Lookout, Ont.

Youth and justice advocates in the Northwest Territories quickly followed suit in their criticism of the practice.

In July, 2008, 17-year-old Michael Langan died after police used a stun gun on him in a central Winnipeg alleyway.

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