Terminate the Tasers; Stun Guns for Beat Officers Is 'Illegal', Human Rights Group Tells Executive
Byline: Graham Grant Home Affairs Editor
SCOTTISH police chiefs are flouting human rights laws by issuing Taser stun guns to ordinary frontline officers, it was claimed yesterday.
Justice campaign group Amnesty International said that a Strathclyde Police pilot project involving the weapons was 'clearly unlawful' under European legislation.
Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill has been urged to halt the trial and hold a public consultation on the role of Tasers in policing.
When the stun guns were first introduced, only police personnel with specialist firearms training were allowed to use them. But a six-month pilot began last month where 30 beat officers in South Lanarkshire were issued with the devices.
Amnesty International argues that this is 'a major step' towards the creation of a fully armed Scottish police service.
It says the pilot should have been authorised by Scottish Executive ministers, not police chiefs - but the Executive says it is up to individual forces to decide on the deployment of Tasers.
Last night, the group's intervention sparked an angry backlash from rank-and-file police officers.
Les Gray, chairman of the Scottish Police Federation, said: 'Amnesty has been guilty of scaremongering in my view and it's interesting that its leaders have not taken up an earlier invitation from us to come and see Taser training.
'If they did, they would see the safeguards that are in place and have the relevant law explained to them. We need to have the right equipment to do the job - which can often be very difficult and dangerous - and we are convinced that includes the Taser.' Since the Strathclyde pilot began last month, officers have carried the hi-tech stun guns, which can deliver 50,000-volt electric shocks.
But Amnesty's legal review of police use of the weapon, conducted by Aidan O'Neill, QC, says a European Court ruling implies that governments have a duty to define the circumstances in which police can use force and guns.
Amnesty International's Scottish programme director, John Watson, has written in a letter to Mr MacAskill that while he acknowledges that gun laws are controlled by the UK Government, control of policy in the area of Tasers has been 'specifically devolved to Scottish ministers'. …