11th April 2016

The dangers of using a Taser have been highlighted in a recent letter to the Law Society Gazette (4 April 2016).

Alistair Logan from the Law Society Human Rights Committee described a study on Tasers funded by the US Department of Justice.  The study involved participants being subject to 50,000 volt Taser shocks and then tested for brain function.  The tests showed short term declines comparable to dementia.

It is reported that the researchers stated the study raised “serious questions about the ability of Police suspects to understand their rights at the point of arrest”.  As well as causing significant reductions in verbal learning and memory other side effects included difficulty in concentrating, increased levels of anxiety, emotional debilitation and a feeling of being overwhelmed.

Professor Wright from Arizona’s School of Criminology and Criminal Justice who jointly conducted the research said “Tasers are a great alternative to deadly force.  When used in lieu of firearms, Tasers can save lives.  But using a Taser is not without risk.  Although they are considered safe when used on healthy people, people have died from being Tasered.  They should be treated as a dangerous weapon”.

It is stated that the use of Tasers is increasing year on year in the UK.  Reference is also made in the article to a campaign by Senior Police Officers, Police and Crime Commissioners and Police Unions for every Officer in the UK to be armed with a Taser.  It appears the results of the US research need to be carefully considered.

Blog by Richard Hardy, Partner and Head of Police Misconduct