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Thursday, July 08, 2010

Manufacturer's 'fine print' on Taser's risks backs Braidwood

July 8, 2010
Keith Fraser, The Province

A B. C. government lawyer argued in court Wednesday that a training directive by Taser International undermines the company's argument that the Braidwood inquiry reached a faulty conclusion about the lethality of Tasers.

Craig Jones, representing the attorney-general's ministry, told B.C. Supreme Court Justice Robert Sewell that the September 2009 directive contains information that is in line with Braidwood's conclusion that the risk of Tasers causing death is low -- but nonetheless does exist.

"If you accept the risk of death by cardiac effect . . . then you agree with what Commissioner Braidwood found," Jones said.

Taser International Inc. "looked at the hard evidence and they came to exactly the same conclusion [as Braidwood]," he said.

The directive, released just two months after Braidwood's first report, is entitled "TASER Training Bulletin 15.0, Medical Research Update and Revised Warnings."

Jones said the bulletin went even farther than Braidwood in recommending how it should be deployed against human beings. "Aiming away from the heart was not among the commissioner's recommendations, though he recognized its value in training situations."

The government lawyer questioned why Taser is pressing its case if it doesn't disagree with the commissioner.

"It's hard to say why. Perhaps it is because Commissioner Braidwood's views were clear, plainspoken and widely and prominently disseminated, where Taser's own indistinguishable conclusion . . . is tucked away among fine print," Jones said.

The Taser admission renders the petition "futile" and thus unsuitable for judicial review, he argued.

Patrick McGowan, a lawyer for the commissioner, told the judge his role was "somewhat limited" but that he had lengthy submissions to make.

He argued that Taser's claims were based on a history of events that was "somewhat misconstrued" and "incomplete" and "the court is left with a potentially distorted and misleading context."

McGowan is expected to continue his submissions today. Taser International has filed a petition seeking to quash the findings in the Braidwood report. Earlier this week, the company's lawyer argued in court that its reputation was harmed by the Braidwood report and that its bottom line was negatively impacted.

Thomas Braidwood, a former judge, conducted two commissions of inquiry after the October 2007 death of Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski at Vancouver International Airport.

Dziekanski died shortly after being Tasered five times by RCMP.

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