Devon

Police Taser blamed for fire death of Andrew Pimlott

Andrew Pimlott
Image caption Andrew Pimlott died in hospital five days after being Tasered

A Taser fired by a police officer was the most likely cause of a fire which engulfed and killed a man in Plymouth, an inquest jury has decided.

Andrew Pimlott, 32, had poured petrol over himself and was holding a lit match when he was hit in the back garden of his parents' house.

The jury said in a narrative verdict that it could not be sure whether he started the fire by striking the match.

It said the officer had acted in line with his training before firing.

Mr Pimlott died a few days later after the fire in April 2013.

Image caption Mr Pimlott, who was in the back garden of his parents' house, doused himself in petrol, the inquest heard
Image caption PC Peter Hodgkinson said he was was trying to stop Mr Pimlott harming himself by firing the Taser

PC Peter Hodgkinson, who had never deployed a Taser operationally since completing training on the weapon in 2012, told the inquest he thought Mr Pimlott was going to set himself alight.

He and another officer had gone to the house after a 999 call from Mr Pimlott's father, Kelvin, reporting his son was breaching a restraining order imposed by magistrates to stay away from the house.

Image copyright AP
Image caption Officers were warned of the potential dangers of firing a Taser in the presence of flammable liquids, the inquest was told

An expert witness told the inquest PC Hodgkinson followed national policing guidelines on using the Taser.

Forensic scientist Stephen Andrews told the jury it was his opinion as an experienced fire investigator that it was the Taser that ignited the petrol-soaked Mr Pimlott and not a lit match.

Officers were warned of the potential dangers of firing a Taser in the presence of flammable liquids, instructor PC Jonathan Reed told the inquest.

In October prosecutors rejected a criminal prosecution for gross negligence manslaughter and misconduct for PC Hodgkinson.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) found there was a case to answer for gross misconduct, but in March an internal misconduct panel cleared the constable.

'Troubled young man'

Ali Cloak, the legal representative of Mr Pimlott's family, said after inquest: "The family are concerned that a Taser was used in circumstances where training in Tasers makes it clear that with a substance you can ignite with a match you should expect a Taser to have the same effect.

"And also that the officers did not attempt to try to resolve the situation by communicating with Andrew instead.

"While Andrew was in some ways a troubled young man, he was a loving, son, brother and uncle who will be very much missed by his family."

Image copyright Metropolitan Police
Image caption According to Home Office figures one in 10 officers is now armed with a Taser

Ch Supt Jim Nye of Devon and Cornwall Police said after the inquest: "Any officer using Taser is subject to extensive training, and we should not under estimate the challenging circumstances police officers face in their line of duty.

"Difficult decisions sometimes need to be made in highly pressured situations.

"In this case, and whenever any officer uses a Taser, it is in line with strict national training and guidance.

"The circumstances of this case mean it is more important than ever to continue to support and train our officers to use Taser appropriately and safely in line with national guidance."

Home Office figures show one in 10 officers is now armed with a Taser and Tasers were deployed more than 10,000 times in England and Wales in 2013.

  • In June, an inquest jury concluded that Jordon Begley, 23, died as a result of being Tasered and restrained by Greater Manchester Police officers two years ago.
  • A blind pensioner was hit with one of the weapons in Lancashire when an officer mistook his white stick for a sword.
  • In 2012, James McCarthy suffered a heart attack after he was hit twice with a Taser at a hotel in Liverpool.
  • In December 2013, a teenage boy with complex learning difficulties was Tasered in the grounds of a special school, Chelfham Mill School near Plymouth.

Since 2004, there have also been two cases where people with epilepsy have been Tasered - one of then was already having a seizure, and one of them began having one after being struck.

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