Police want more tasers despite risk to human rights law

A GROUNDBREAKING study has suggested tasers would prove a useful tool to officers in the new Police Service of ­Scotland.

A report, which will go to Strathclyde Police Authority, highlights legal hurdles to their use, but also found they have value.

“In our judgement, the specially-trained officers who took part in the Strathclyde pilot… found tasers to be a tactical ­option which enabled them to bring dangerous situations, in which there were risks of violence of varying degrees, under control,” it said.

However, legal advice, ­obtained by the authority, indicates officers run the risk of breaching article two of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) if they use tasers in certain circumstances.

This is because tasers are classified as potentially lethal. CS gas, batons, and officers using their bare hands are all classed as non-lethal.

In his advice to the police authority, Simon Di Rollo QC warned: “It is not proportionate to deploy potentially lethal force where non-lethal force would suffice.”

That means, under the ECHR, tasers could only be used as an alternative to firearms — another lethal weapon — and not to batons or CS gas. However, Mr Di Rollo admitted the risk of killing someone with a taser is “remote”.

The authors of the police authority report believe tests should now be done, comparing it to other police weapons.

“We are not aware of any study which compares the ­potential lethality of taser, with the potential lethality of these other tactical options that are classified as ‘non-lethal’,” the ­report said.

“We suggest that such studies should now be undertaken to give the police service in Scotland, and the public, a clearer understanding of where taser sits on the spectrum of potential lethality.

“It is important to know whether on that scale taser sits closer to firearms than to batons or CS gas. It is also important to know whether there is something that is potentially lethal about taser.”