Police use of Tasers - Home Affairs Committee Contents


Examination of Witnesses (Questions 48-114)

ASSISTANT CHIEF CONSTABLE SIMON CHESTERMAN AND ASSISTANT CHIEF CONSTABLE ANDY ADAMS

7 DECEMBER 2010

Q48   Chair: Mr Chesterman and Mr Adams, thank you for coming. You have obviously heard the evidence that Mr Coles has just given. Is there anything you would like to say as a result of what you have just heard about the general rules governing the supply of Tasers? Mr Chesterman, you are the ACPO lead?

Simon Chesterman: I am the ACPO lead, yes.

I think the thing that is important to point out is that there are very strict rules governing the procurement of Tasers in this country. A Home Office code of practice clearly covers the rules around what we can and can't do. We have a very stringent testing regime with the Home Office Scientific Development Branch. Also, there is a body called DOMILL—the Defence Scientific Advisory Council's Sub-committee on the Medical Implications of Less-lethal Weapons, who advise the Government on the safety of these articles. So anything that is used by police forces must be covered by the code of practice, and must be tested by HOSDB and approved through that process.

Q49   Chair: We don't have Northumbria here today and we don't have Lincolnshire here today, so hopefully, in a sense, you will be able to answer some questions about the police side of this. Is there a problem at the moment in procuring Tasers? Does every police force have sufficient numbers of Tasers?

Simon Chesterman: When the section 5 authority was removed from Pro-Tect, my office did an audit nationally to find out what sort of stocks were out there and to see at what point we were going to start running low. I think it is important to understand that for the actual body of the Taser itself—the X26—there are plenty of those in the possession of police forces across the United Kingdom. But, of course, the cartridges are consumables, and they will be consumed when officers are trained and reaccredited, because officers that are trained to use Taser have to be reaccredited every year, which means they will have to fire cartridges during the process of that reaccreditation. So the audit showed that eventually, obviously, we were going to run out, and we had probably about a three-month period within which we would use—

Q50   Chair: Run out of Tasers or cartridges?

Simon Chesterman: Run out of cartridges.

Q51   Chair: Right. When will we run out of cartridges?

Simon Chesterman: Probably early in the new year would be the issue. Different forces are clearly in different positions, because some have better stocks than others, but we do know that within the next six months we are going to need something like 22,000 live cartridges and about 23,500 training cartridges to keep things going and to keep Taser in the hands of the officers that are trained to use it.

Q52   Chair: In the last Parliament, members of the Committee looked at a Taser demonstration and the amount of training that goes in. But it appears you are going to have quite a severe shortage of cartridges.

Simon Chesterman: There is certainly the potential for that, yes. As I say, the audit revealed that some forces had lower stocks than others, and we were in a position of putting come contingencies in place to make sure that if a force ran out we could supplement them from somewhere else.

Q53   Chair: When you say "we", who is "we"? ACPO?

Simon Chesterman: Yes, ACPO; myself as the ACPO lead.

Q54   Chair: You, as the ACPO lead—I thought it was a policy lead—are able to ring up Leicestershire and say, "You only have 10 cartridges left" and then ring up Northamptonshire and say, "Give Leicestershire 100 cartridges"?

Simon Chesterman: Well, we can ask and, as I said, it was quite clear that some forces had greater stocks than others. It didn't come to that, but one of the contingencies would have been to contact forces with greater stocks and say, "There is a critical need in another part of the country, are you prepared to ship some stock across to them?" It didn't come to that in the end, but there was real potential for that.

Q55   Chair: What will you do about this shortage? We come to a situation now where Pro-Tect will come to the end of its contract on 31 December. At the moment they have 272 Tasers in stock. Mr Coles is obviously going to try and get rid of them in whatever way he can—sell them off to various forces. What is going to happen to the Tasers that are left on his shelves?

Simon Chesterman: Clearly I think that is a commercial decision between Mr Coles and the new company that has been granted the licence.

Q56   Chair: Because he seems to think the Home Office is involved in this.

Simon Chesterman: That is clearly something you will have to ask the Home Office officials who are present here today, but I mean clearly he—

Q57   Chair: But ACPO doesn't have a view on this, because they normally have a view on everything?

Simon Chesterman: No, we don't have a view on this. Clearly there is some stock there that I am sure Mr Coles would be keen to get rid of.

Q58   Chair: Do you have a thought as to what might happen to these 272 extra Tasers?

Simon Chesterman: In my opinion—if you ask my opinion—these Tasers could be transferred across to the new company or they could be procured by the Home Office on behalf of the Police Service, so that we can use them. The requirement for the new X26—the actual body of the X26—is clearly a lot less than the consumables.

  Chair: I think Mr Reckless is eager to answer a question on this.

Q59   Mark Reckless: Mr Chesterman, in my role as a member of the Kent Police Authority, which I declared earlier, members of the senior team at the force raised issues about the Taser with me, and the monopoly supply and difficulty of getting hold of appropriate cartridges particularly, as we've heard. As the Home Affairs Committee, we're looking at this, because we understood it was a responsibility of the Home Office. On what basis have ACPO been dealing with this? I don't understand.

Simon Chesterman: Sorry, I might have misled you. I am saying that when we knew that the Home Office had removed the licence, we conducted an audit to see what stocks were out there, because clearly we were very keen to make sure that if individual forces ran low, we could invoke a contingency to make sure that we spread the stocks across the country. That is something that I took responsibility for, as the ACPO lead, to make sure we did not run out. Clearly I was working very closely with the Home Office—in regular contact while we were doing that.

Q60   Mark Reckless: Who gave ACPO responsibility to check around the country and start transferring stocks of Tasers from one force to the other?

Simon Chesterman: Okay. The Home Office is the short answer. We were asked to conduct the audit, which we did. The reason we were asked to do it was that because my office also leads on firearms, we have a very good network of contacts among the individual forces—their firearms leads. So I was able very quickly, through a national circular, to find out the information that the Home Office required.

Q61   Mark Reckless: Who asked you at the Home Office and when did this happen? Assuming it's in writing, can this Committee have a copy of that instruction to you, please?

Simon Chesterman: Yes, clearly I have an audit trail that says that the audit is required, so clearly I could provide that to you—that wouldn't be a problem—but it didn't come to redistribution of the cartridges. It was purely an audit to find out where the stocks were and, if it had become critical, clearly we would have worked with the Home Office to assist in the redistribution of cartridges, if that was indeed the requirement.

Q62   Dr Huppert: I have found this session fascinating; every answer raises many, many more questions. Before I get onto my main question, I am still stunned you need 22,000 live Taser cartridges in the next few months.

Simon Chesterman: The next six months, yes.

Q63   Dr Huppert: Are there 22,000 firings you're expecting?

Simon Chesterman: No, that is not the case. What happens is that each individual Taser officer—there are probably about 10,000 officers in the country now who are trained in the use of Taser—obviously has to go through their initial training, which takes 18 hours, and then they are reaccredited for six hours on an annual basis. In each reaccreditation, the national recommendation is that they discharge a minimum of 10 cartridges.

Q64   Dr Huppert: But those are presumably training cartridges, because you spoke about 23,000 training cartridges as well.

Simon Chesterman: Yes, but they also have to demonstrate competence in using live cartridges, because there is some difference between the discharging of the two cartridges.

Q65   Dr Huppert: Okay. I am still fascinated, but I will move on to what I was going to ask.

First, Cambridgeshire County Council, my own local police authority, currently has 150 unwanted Tasers that were given by the Home Office to an authority that simply did not want, on principle, to give Tasers to non-firearms trained officers. If people are looking for Tasers, I believe Cambridgeshire has some spare that are sitting in a cupboard somewhere.

On a slightly broader issue, we have had in this Committee a number of discussions about operational decisions and who makes them. In the new world that we're going to have with police and crime commissioners, or even in the current one with police authorities versus a chief constable, whose decision ought it to be about whether to deploy Tasers to non-firearms trained police officers and to use Tasers? Where does all of that fit into operational independence?

Simon Chesterman: From my own perspective, as the ACPO lead, I think that much in the use of Taser depends on demographics. It depends on whether you are a small urban environment or a large sprawling rural environment—that kind of thing. There are a number of dependables that people will need to take into consideration. But, to answer your question, I believe this is an operational matter for the chief constable.

Q66   Dr Huppert: You do not think a commissioner or a police authority would have the ability to say, "We believe that people who have not been trained to use firearms should not be using Tasers"?

Simon Chesterman: You're asking my personal opinion. I believe it is an operational decision for the chief constable.

Alun Michael: Just before we go onto other questions can I be—

Q67   Chair: Just one second. Mr Adams, if you wish to chip in, please feel free to do so. Don't feel you are just here for decorative purposes.

Andy Adams: Thank you. I was being very polite and waiting for you to ask me a question. May I just extend the answer given in response to your question, Dr Huppert?

The operational decision to extend to non-firearms officers is obviously a decision that is made by the chief constable. In our own force, when we did that, we went through an exercise of doing public consultation to understand whether the public supported the extension. Because the extension involved the implementation with additional finance, it was routed though the police authority as well. We have just done a post-implementation review on that, which the police authority sanctioned and reviewed, so there is an operational element to that, but also a scrutiny element that is exercised by the police authority.

Q68   Mr Burley: Can I ask a follow up question, in terms of going out to consultation with the public and then the police authority having a final say on it? In 18 months' time, in the new world of police and crime commissioners, would you see it as their democratic mandate, if they have been elected on a platform involving, for example, saying that no untrained firearms officer should carry a Taser that, on 7 May 2012 they are entitled to tell the chief constable that they have a mandate democratically to overrule him if, for example, he has decided that non-trained officers could carry Tasers?

Andy Adams: I think my answer to that would be that, under the present arrangements, we went to consultation with the public; we explained the rationale to the police authority; the decision was made by the chief constable and explained to the police authority, and the police authority have exercised scrutiny. I'm not in a position to answer the question around what the future might look like and the responsibility of the commissioner against the chief constable. But certainly there is an operational decision here which, as my colleague has said, was made by the chief constable.

Q69   Mr Burley: But you can understand the scenario. If the general public in an area are worried about non-firearm trained officers carrying Tasers in their police force, and a member of the public—who might be sat behind you now—decides to stand to be the police and crime commissioner in that area, and part of their leaflets and their manifesto is that they will fight to stop that happening, you can see where the conflict potentially comes in—

Chair: Mr Burley, I believe you had a quick question.

Mr Burley: Yes. Do you think that they have that right?

Andy Adams: In answer to your question, 88% of the people that we spoke to agreed that Taser was a useful way to dissuade potentially violent people from being violent, and 83% agreed that Taser improves officer and public safety. We had a clear mandate from the public to extend to non-firearms officers.

Chair: My apologies to you, Mr Michael. My intervention has caused this little sideshow.

Alun Michael: You stimulate excitement wherever you go, Chair.

Chair: The floor is yours.

Q70   Alun Michael: Before going forward, can I just go back to one element? Mr Chesterman referred to the careful control of these items but, as we heard earlier, the Taser company itself seems to be a little less specific, referring generically to items. The problem seems to be in the supply of the X12, with extra cartridges. Is there clarity about what is supplied and used by police forces now? I take it that there wasn't some time ago, but is it all clear now as to what is authorised, and what is not authorised but can be used at the discretion of the chief constable, as I understand it?

Simon Chesterman: Yes, my belief is we have made it as clear as possible. Mr Coles is absolutely right that "Taser" is a generic term that describes a range of products, but the actual authority—the approval from HOSDB, DOMILL and the Home Office, covered by the Home Office code—is for the X26.

Q71   Alun Michael: Yes, but looking forward, will it be absolutely clear that authorisation, under the regulatory system, is specific to specific pieces of kit and others would fall out of that? Although of course, as I understand it, there is the discretion of chief constables to authorise items even if they haven't been through that process. Is that all clear now?

Simon Chesterman: Yes, it is, and my belief is that it's been clear for some time.

Q72   Alun Michael: Could you take us now to the use of Tasers and the training of officers who are authorised to use them? Can you explain precisely what the current requirements and authorisation are for the carrying of Tasers?

Simon Chesterman: Yes. Okay. Clearly the Tasers are carried by two groups of people: either people who are already authorised firearms officers, who carry Taser as a less-lethal option in the same way that they would carry things like the attenuated energy projectile, which is otherwise known as a baton round. So they are trained, alongside their firearms duties, to carry Taser as a less-lethal option so they don't need to have recourse to lethal force. Also, the guidelines allow officers and specially trained units to carry Tasers as well, if they have completed the training.

Q73   Alun Michael: Specially trained units?

Simon Chesterman: Yes, STUs.

Q74   Alun Michael: Is that trained on firearms or not on firearms?

Simon Chesterman: No, they're not firearms officers. These are officers who are not firearms officers but form part of specially trained units and who are eligible, through their training and accreditation, to carry Tasers. As I said earlier, they would receive an initial 18 hours' training, and they're reaccredited annually, where they have to have at least six hours contact on the training.

Q75   Dr Huppert: As ever, there are more questions, but I will stick to one in particular. In October last year, Taser International issued a training bulletin—I think Training Bulletin 15—which advised avoiding chest shots and that that advice should go out. Was that advice given to all UK police officers, because I haven't been able to find an update to the ACPO operational guidance that incorporates that?

Simon Chesterman: Yes. That guidance was given out in relation to one specific case in the United States involving a lad called Robert Mitchell, who tragically died after a Taser discharge. It's the only case that I can find internationally where the autopsy report tends to indicate that one of the contributory factors of death was the conducted energy device. It turned out that Robert Mitchell had an underlying heart defect. Taser did put out some advice. We received that advice, and it all relates to point of aim.

In this country the recommended point of aim is the central body mass, which clearly is the chest area. In the United States, they were considering lowering the point of aim to avoid the chest area. We referred that to our medical experts. As I said earlier, we have the Defence Scientific Advisory Council Sub-committee on the Medical Implications of Less-lethal Weapons. It has been referred to them and the advice to date is that we don't need to alter the point of aim in this country, so nothing has been put out to police forces. We do put out regular advice in relation to recommendations from DOMILL, such as caution in relation to use of Taser against children and persons of small stature, but to date we have not changed the point of aim.[1]

Q76   Bridget Phillipson: Could you explain the process by which an officer would be deployed to use a Taser—the process by which it would be determined that a Taser could be used or would be appropriate in those circumstances?

Simon Chesterman: Certainly. There is no hierarchical use of force, so it's not a matter of facing violence and trying various different levels of defending yourself until you work your way up to Taser. Officers are trained extensively in something we call "the conflict management model", which is a decision-making model, and they will use the most appropriate means with which to protect the public or themselves. If that happens to be Taser and they're carrying Taser, they don't have to try a baton first or some other method. Clearly they will try and de-escalate the situation, but they could ultimately go straight to Taser.

  Taser is preauthorised by a firearms commander, so the control room inspector, for example, in sending officers to an incident might say Taser is authorised because there are reports of people with a machete or something like that, so they might authorise Taser on the way. But equally, if an officer is carrying Taser and they're confronted with a violent situation, they can self-authorise. They have to complete paperwork afterwards. There is a very detailed audit trail in terms of their justification for the use, which has to be centrally collated, and we look at all the statistics.

Q77   Bridget Phillipson: If a non-Taser carrying officer attended a scene, how would they determine that a Taser could be used and how would they call for the use of a Taser in that situation?

Simon Chesterman: For a start, if the incident was such that the person despatching the officers felt that Taser should be deployed to the scene—as I said earlier, if it was a report of somebody with a machete, for example—there is every chance that they would deploy Taser officers in the first instance, even if it's just to back up the non-Taser officers. If non-Taser officers found themselves at an incident that they felt required that level of protection, they would clearly call for it over the radio and officers would be despatched to support them.

Q78   Mr Winnick: Mr Chesterman, there is a great deal of controversy at the moment over the policing of public demonstrations. How far do you feel that Tasers should be used in any circumstances in such demonstrations?

Simon Chesterman: To give you a straight answer, I don't think it should. The national guidance is that Taser should not be used in relation to public demonstrations. It's not a pain compliance tool. It's clearly to be used by officers who are facing severe violence from an individual or individuals. In terms of making people comply with instructions, it's not for that, it's not a pain compliance tool. The other thing is you have to remember that the Taser will discharge barbs connected to cables, and if you're firing it into a crowd, you don't know where they're going to go and you can't retrieve them afterwards, and for us it's a big no-no.

Q79   Mr Winnick: So we can work on the reasonable assumption that in the current climate of public protest—the students and others—there will be no question of Tasers being used?

Simon Chesterman: I would say no, there shouldn't be a question of Tasers being used.

Q80   Mr Winnick: You say, "No, there shouldn't be", so presumably you can't give a firm commitment?

Simon Chesterman: I can, sir. In general terms, I can give a firm commitment, but of course there could be circumstances under which perhaps an officer becomes isolated and is facing such severe violence and personal attack if they have a Taser with them they might use it, and clearly that would be heavily scrutinised afterwards. But the ACPO guidance at the moment is that Taser is not an appropriate tool to be used in relation to public protest.

Q81   Mr Winnick: I welcome what you've just said. I take it that there are circumstances where you clearly feel that Tasers are an appropriate weapon?

Simon Chesterman: I think that Taser is not necessarily a safe option. It is less injurious than many other methods of restraining a violent individual. It has been proved to be very successful and has the cautious support of bodies such as the Independent Police Complaints Commission, who sit on the Taser Working Group alongside me. It is a good tool in terms of protecting the public and protecting our officers.

Q82   Mr Winnick: Another colleague will be asking you a question about safety, but would I be right in coming to the conclusion that the police view is that Taser should be used only in very extreme circumstances?

Simon Chesterman: The guidance is that Taser should only be used by an officer who is facing violence of such severity that they need to protect themselves, and clearly they will use the conflict management model to make a decision as to the most appropriate level of force to be used.

Q83   Chair: You have not fired a Taser yourself, Mr Chesterman.

Simon Chesterman: Not at somebody, no. At a target I have, yes.

Q84   Chair: But have you been trained to use a Taser?

Simon Chesterman: I haven't been trained, no. I have discharged a Taser at a target though.

Q85   Chair: What about you, Mr Adams?

Andy Adams: I haven't, no.

Q86   Chair: It may be a bit odd that sometimes the order is given to use a Taser by senior officers who have never used them themselves.

Andy Adams: I think the important aspect of this, Chair, is that every officer who is deployed with a Taser is trained and has to go through a training regime. They have to justify their actions and, as I say, their actions have to be justified and proportionate to the level of threat that they face.

Q87   Chair: I understand that; that's not my question, though, Mr Adams. My question is that it may be a senior officer who says, "Fire the Taser," not the officer concerned, and that senior officer may never have been trained to use one. That's my question.

Andy Adams: The decision around firing a Taser is obviously with the officer at the time and they have to justify the use of it.

Q88   Chair: Just them? They make the decision?

Andy Adams: The level of scrutiny around this is that—as my colleague says—every time they use force they have to fill out a form; the form is subject to scrutiny. In our own force, when a Taser is discharged and used, our professional standards department reviews that and makes sure that it is proportionate.

Q89   Chair: Sure, but that is all after the event, isn't it? You fill in the form not while you're about to fire the Taser; you fill in the form afterwards. My question is: senior officers, who may be in a situation where an officer fires a Taser, have not themselves been trained to use the Taser. That was the question. The answer must be yes.

Andy Adams: In my circumstances, that is true, but the officers have been.

Chair: Yes, sure. That bit I understand.

Q90   Dr Huppert: Just following on from that scrutiny question, Chair, I understand that the Home Office Scientific Development Branch has evaluated a Taser-cam, which would record every use of a Taser, and it seemed to be quite positive. It said the images were of usable quality. Why isn't this in routine use in the UK to provide protection—for people when there might be a question about why they were shot, and also for the police officers who fired them?

Simon Chesterman: It's certainly something that is under active consideration, because clearly any protection we can give officers in the post-incident inquiry is important if it's open and transparent. I think one of the issues with it is that the Taser-cam is only activated at the immediate point just before the Taser is activated. So, in terms of the officer's justification for discharging the Taser, there may have been quite a build-up before that and all you're going to get on the camera is somebody being Tasered and not necessarily the justification for that.

Q91   Steve McCabe: I wanted to go quickly back to Mr Winnick's point about demonstrations. The ACPO guidance is that Tasers shouldn't be used at demonstrations. Why does the guidance not also say that officers policing demonstrations shouldn't be carrying Tasers, because you did allude to the possible risk of this happening?

Simon Chesterman: Yes. Effectively, officers policing demonstrations shouldn't be carrying Tasers.

Q92   Steve McCabe: But why doesn't the guidance say that so that there can't be any doubt? If the ACPO view is you can't use them at a demonstration, surely you should eliminate the risk of that happening.

Simon Chesterman: Part of it is because sometimes, in policing a demonstration, you can end up with officers engaged with the crowd who are not part of policing that demonstration. I saw it for myself a couple of weeks ago in the student demonstrations where there were clearly officers allocated to police that demonstration but other officers were being called to provide support. The officers who are allocated to police the demonstration should not be carrying Taser, because it's not an appropriate use, but you could find officers attending the scene of public disorder who are carrying it. So it's quite a—

Q93   Steve McCabe: So you can't rule out the risk? Despite what you said to Mr Winnick, you can't rule out the risk of it being used against students?

Simon Chesterman: No, of course I can't totally rule that out. It would depend on the circumstances. If it was used, that would have to be very carefully scrutinised and justification would have to be explained afterwards.

Q94   Chair: And the forms to be filled in.

Simon Chesterman: The all important forms.

Q95   Mark Reckless: Mr Adams was appointed by, and is held to account by, the Kent Police Authority. Mr Chesterman, how were you selected for your lead role and who holds you to account for that?

Simon Chesterman: I was selected by the ACPO lead on uniform operations and the ACPO lead on police use of firearms. Effectively, what happens within ACPO is that expressions of interest are sought and you apply to take up the lead of a particular business area, and then you're chosen by the chief constables who lead on these particular areas.

Q96   Mark Reckless: Is there any reporting back to the Home Office or police authorities?

Simon Chesterman: Sorry, in what context?

Mark Reckless: As to who holds what role and how they exercise it.

Simon Chesterman: I believe so, yes. I'm also the ACPO lead on police use of firearms—that is widely known—and I report through the ACPO business area reporting mechanism.

Q97   Chair: On the issue of the safety of Tasers, are you both aware of the case in France on 30 November where a man was shot with a Taser and subsequently died?

Simon Chesterman: Not specifically, no. I'm aware of cases like that, yes.

Q98   Chair: On 30 November, the BBC reported that an immigrant from Mali died after the French police shot him twice with a Taser gun. He was also tear-gassed and struck with a baton at the same time—we don't know whether before or after he was Tasered. The exact cause of death wasn't noted, despite all that. There was another case in Australia at the end of October. In fact, research was conducted by the Australian police about the use of Taser guns against people with mental illness, and the report stated that it had been disproportionately used against those with mental illnesses: 85% of the 83 incidents when the Victoria force used Tasers involved people with a mental illness. Are you aware of what is happening in other parts of the world, because I'm surprised you didn't know about this shooting in France?

Simon Chesterman: Yes. We do receive reports from abroad in relation to specific cases. We do carefully examine them, and I know that HOSDB, in particular, are linked into their equivalents in these different countries. So, in terms of the medical implications and the safety of Taser, the Home Office Scientific Development Branch are very well connected with that.

Q99   Chair: I understand that, but these are two very important things: the study in Australia, and the death in France, which happened only 12 days ago. Should there not be a method by which this information comes to you, since you have such a pivotal role in all this?

Simon Chesterman: Yes. As I say, initially it would go to the Home Office Scientific Development Branch. They sit on the working group as well. They also sit on the DOMILL working group. Clearly, if there were implications for the UK—like the Robert Mitchell case that I mentioned earlier on with point of aim—I would be made aware as the Taser lead.

Q100   Chair: But you're talking about working parties here. This is something that occurred 12 days ago and a report that happened at the end of October, which is quite important, and you appear to be unaware of them. This is not any fault of your own, of course, but maybe the information systems aren't getting to you quickly enough and there are too many working parties on all this.

Andy Adams: I'm not aware of the French case but certainly the Australian information I am aware of. I know there are a number of recommendations contained within that report.

Q101   Chair: Are there any that are relevant for us?

Andy Adams: I support what Mr Chesterman is saying that when this information comes out, we do look at it and scrutinise it. If I'm right in saying, one of the Australian recommendations is that they should look at the way the ACPO report form is used and that there should be transparency around the way that they are using Taser. I think you will find from the experience—certainly the experience that I have in Kent—that both the reporting mechanisms and the transparency around the way we use Taser fits the criteria of those recommendations. I know from Mr Chesterman's perspective, as the ACPO lead in this area, that we are regularly looking at these articles and the material and recommendations from them, and I know that the Home Office are. I wasn't aware of the French case.

Q102   Chair: That's very helpful, but does it concern you that this detailed study—a five-year study—shows that 85% of the cases involved someone with a mental illness?

Andy Adams: I think what is important out of that study is that we look at it in the context of UK policing and the way that we use our Tasers. I have no doubt that is something the Home Office will be doing to see if there are any lessons from the Victoria police experience and, equally, if there is any experience that we can share with them that will assist them in their work.

Q103   Chair: Yes, of course, but you know of no studies that we're conducting? Is no research going on here?

Simon Chesterman: We research just about every case in that because the forms are filled in—they come in centrally to the Home Office—we look for patterns. For example, if there were patterns with regard to mental health, persons of small stature or use against juveniles—that kind of thing—we would pick that up.

Q104   Chair: But as far as you're aware, Mr Chesterman—you're obviously the authority on this—do you know of any Home Office research similar to that in Australia or other countries that look at particular incidents and try to get a pattern where there is a report and we can understand better the use—

Simon Chesterman: That is an ongoing process and, as I say, the—

Q105   Chair: You don't know of a particular report? We understand ongoing processes.

Andy Adams: No, not a specific—yes.

Q106   Mr Winnick: There was a report by Amnesty International about the situation in the United States where Tasers were used. Are you familiar with that report at all?

Simon Chesterman: Yes.

Q107   Mr Winnick: It did state that there 50 deaths in the United States linked to the police use of Tasers. Two of the risks identified by Amnesty are multiple or prolonged shocks, and strikes to the chest. Is that more or less accepted by you and your colleagues as being accurate?

Simon Chesterman: It is. That's a totally different policing context, in that across the United States, Taser is effectively given to all officers. The problem that the States have compared with us is that we have an ACPO lead and an overarching national policy on this, and we control it very tightly. Because there are something like 16,000 different policing organisations across the United States, their overarching policy is not as stringent and as tight as ours. I am aware of the Amnesty report. I'm also aware that Amnesty cautiously supports the way in which the UK police use and deploy Taser. Clearly it has some concerns about Taser, but it holds us up internationally as a model of best practice, in terms of our policies and procedures, and the tight control that we keep on this device in this country.

Q108   Mr Winnick: Perhaps we will look at that report, Chair. But coming back to Britain, does the case of Mr Brian Loan in October 2006 ring a bell with you?

Simon Chesterman: Not off the top of my head, no.

Q109   Mr Winnick: He was Tasered and shot with a baton by Durham police during a siege at his home—I don't know the circumstances other than what I've just said. He was arrested, charged and bailed, and died three days afterwards. The coroner ruled death by natural causes, but the family maintain, rightly or wrongly, that the use of Tasers contributed to his death, but you're not aware of that case.

Simon Chesterman: I'm not, no. Clearly the safety aspect of this is absolutely paramount, and the risks associated with Taser. As I say, the guidance that we've put out relates to persons of small stature and children, but also there is a risk of secondary injury from falling, and we're aware that the effects of neuromuscular incapacitation can cause somebody to fall to the ground. If they do, they could bump their head, so the guidance is very strong on that as well.

Q110   Dr Huppert: On the subject of reports, as I'm sure you know, two years ago, when the Home Office announced that Tasers would be rolled out, it said there was an ACPO trial evaluation report that had happened before. That doesn't seem to be freely available anywhere. One of my constituents has been trying to get it through freedom of information. As you know, ACPO is extremely resistant to the idea of freedom of information. Will you be prepared to release that report, both to this Committee and more broadly, as well as any other reports that you've done? I think that would help with some of the Chair's questions as well.

Simon Chesterman: I think that's a question you must ask the Home Office because clearly they were—

Q111   Dr Huppert: But it's an ACPO report.

Simon Chesterman: I believe that the evaluations of the trials were carried out by the Home Office.

Chair: We will ask the Home Secretary next week.

Q112   Dr Huppert: If it is ACPO's, you'll be happy to release it?

Simon Chesterman: I haven't said that. I'm not sure what GPMS markings are on it or anything, to be honest with you. I will obviously consider it, yes.

Chair: We don't want to speculate on the markings on this report. Dr Huppert, we will ask the Home Secretary when she comes in next week.

Q113   Mr Burley: Just a final question. If you go back to the world before Tasers, is it the case, in any of these examples we've been discussing this morning, that where they've been used, the only alternative would have been for that person to have been shot with a gun? What would have happened before the police had Tasers? I think this sort of goes to the heart of the matter. There are obviously health risks, and they may be dangerous for people who have a heart condition or fall over or whatever, but is that ultimately better than the alternative, which would have been that they would have been shot with a live round?

Simon Chesterman: I can say quite clearly, unfortunately, that yes, that would be the case. I spent many hours talking to the parents of a young man who was shot by police within the last year who wished that we'd had Taser. He was armed with a samurai sword and was shot by firearms officers, and the parents were very supportive of Taser.

Q114   Mr Burley: This is ultimately about avoiding having to use a lethal force?

Simon Chesterman: That's what it's all about, yes.

Chair: Mr Chesterton and Mr Adams, thank you so much for coming in to give evidence today. Your evidence has been very helpful. We're not planning to publish the report imminently, so if there is information, based on anything that we've asked you today, that you feel would be helpful, please do let us have it. Thank you very much for coming.


1   Note by witness: Firstly, DOMILL does not specify, and has not specified, the Taser point of aim. This is a training and operational decision to be taken by the police and reflected in ACPO's Policy and Guidance on Operational Use of Taser.

DOMILL is still considering the medical implications of Taser discharge administered through probes on the chest, but has not yet finalised its opinion. As alluded to by Mr Graham Smith in his evidence on 7 December, DOMILL is currently preparing a sixth medical statement which will consider the medical implications of Taser use based upon the latest scientific, medical and operational information. Among the topics considered will be application of Taser discharge to the chest. (Note continued on next page)

Note by witness continued: To date, no-one has approached ACC Simon Chesterman, as the ACPO lead, to consider any further changes to the current operational guidance.

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