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Illustration photo (Wikimedia Commons)
Illustration photo (Wikimedia Commons)

The London Metropolitan police want to use Tasers. This has created a lively debate about the use of this non-lethal weapon.

One argument in favor of using Tasers is that they are a less lethal option compared to a firearm. The argument against their increased availability is that they would be seen to arm the police by stealth and have the potential to cause serious injury.

So why were Londoners not consulted before the Commissioner embarked on his ‘Taser Roll-Out Program’? That was one of the questions put to both the Commissioner and the Deputy Mayor of London as they gave evidence to the Police and Crime Committee’s Taser Working Group in June.

According to the Independent Newspaper, the Committee wrote a report in which it criticizes not only the ambiguity over the decision-making process but also the lack of data transparency and information given to the public.

iHLS – Israel Homeland Security

To date there has been no direct link to a Taser-related death in Britain. However, in 2006, Brian Loan, a 47-year-old man from Sacriston, County Durham died three days after being Tasered in the back. The Coroner’s verdict at the time did not find a connection, but the Coroner did add that “It may be in five or ten years time somebody may find a link”.

According to the British newspaper, If we look to America, Canada and Australia, the link has already been found. The militarization of their police forces is likely to be one of the contributory factors which has led to the ready use of Tasers. It could also be due to the misconception that the Taser is non-lethal.

The Commissioner also seems to hold a similar misconception about Tasers, as he considers them to be a ‘tool’ rather than a ‘weapon’. The Taser is a firearm: its use is controlled under section 5 of Firearms Act 1968 and should only be used when there is a life-threatening incident. If the Taser is used outside such circumstances then its use could be deemed excessive and disproportionate – and challengeable by law.