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Thursday, October 21, 2010

Scotland: Amnesty International calls for probe into 'unlawful' use of Taser stun guns

Oct 21 2010
Daily Record

A HUMAN rights group today called for a "thorough evaluation" of the use of Taser stun guns by police forces. Amnesty International has already branded a six-month pilot scheme in the Strathclyde force area as "unlawful" - a position rejected by the First Minister and police.

Now, one day after the trial ended, the group demanded a probe and called on the Scottish Government to take control.

John Watson, Scottish programme director for Amnesty International, said: "The Firearms Act clearly states that new police deployments of Taser must have written authorisation from Government ministers. And court judgements have made it clear that police use of Tasers must be bound by an appropriate legal and administrative framework. Alas, Strathclyde Police do not want to be bound by these controls and the Scottish Government are failing to exercise them."

Thirty officers took part in the latest trial in South Lanarkshire.

Amnesty said Tasers, which deliver electric shocks to their targets, "have a role" in policing but should be handled by properly-trained people acting on decisions by senior officers. Mr Watson added: "It is controls such as these which have set our policing apart from countries such as the USA and Australia, where the use of Tasers to force compliance on non-violent subjects has become commonplace. The Strathclyde pilot reduces the threshold for use of Taser, removes key safeguards governing their use and normalises the presence of these weapons on Scottish streets."

Liberal Democrat justice spokesman Robert Brown MSP backed the group's call and said: "For months now I have been calling on the SNP Justice Secretary to take full policy responsibility for the use of Tasers in Scottish police forces.

"The Justice Secretary must also clear up the issue over the legality of tasers that Amnesty International Scotland continues to raise."

Campbell Corrigan, Assistant Chief Constable at Strathclyde Police, said: "Our position is that the chief constable has the lawful authority to carry out the Taser pilot and that it was European Convention on Human Rights-compliant."

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