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Thursday, 01 February 2018

Tasers fired more than 20 times in six months in mental health units

Written by Catherine Wyatt

Tasers were fired 22 times in mental health hospitals, wards and clinics during a six month period, new figures have shown.

From April 1 2017 to September 30 2017, the stun guns were drawn, aimed or fired by police officers 58 times in a mental health setting, BBC Radio 5 investigation revealed.

The station found of the 58 recorded incidents, a Taser was fired 22 times.

Figures were provided by 43 police forces in England, Wales and Scotland - the Metropolitan Police and the Police Service in Northern Ireland did not respond in time.

The data showed that in one incident a Taser was fired at a 15-year-old girl.

One 17-year-old boy was suffering a mental health crisis in the reception area of the hostel he was living in when private security officers called the police.

Pat Kenny told the BBC: "I was at a stand-off with the police for about 15 minutes. After 15 minutes they didn't know how to deal with it, so they Tasered me.

"I won't say it's painful but extremely uncomfortable and it's like you seize up, you can't move, and the officer started shouting at me aggressively 'on the ground, on the ground', and I was like, 'no, I'm still standing', while I was trying to get to the cables to get them out and that's when they hit me with a second Taser."

He said that the incident enabled him to receive help, adding: "It finally got me into a proper assessment - I'd been falling through the net for years, now I had the diagnosis of depression and PTSD, and borderline personality disorder. If anything it did stop me falling through the net."

Norman Lamb, Liberal Democrat MP for Norfolk, hit out at the findings arguing using Tasers in a mental health facility is "not appropriate".

He added: "There are circumstances in which force is necessary - when there is an immediate threat to life either to the life of the individual concerned or to someone else's life...I think it's very hard to imagine the circumstances in which Tasers are necessary in any situation in mental health settings.

"Before they were designed and invented we got by without them so is it not possible to get by without them in this day and age?"

But a Government spokesman said Tasers can be appropriate in certain circumstances.

A statement said: "Tasers are an important tactical option for specially trained police officers, but their use in mental health settings should only be a last resort and, where possible, staff trained in de-escalation techniques should always be the first response.

"All officers who use them have to pass a comprehensive training process. This includes training officers to factor in the potential vulnerability of the person and factors such as age and physical build when assessing each situation."

Police forces have been required to keep data on the use of Tasers in mental health settings since April 1 2017.

Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2018, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) Gareth Fuller / PA Wire.