Stoke & Staffordshire

Man dies in police Taser shooting in Newcastle-under-Lyme

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Media captionNeighbours heard "a commotion" reports Liz Copper from the scene

A man has died after being shot by police with a Taser during a suspected burglary in Staffordshire.

Officers were responding to a reported break-in on Audley Road, Newcastle-under-Lyme, shortly after 01:00 GMT.

The occupants had left before officers arrived, leaving the man inside the property. A Taser was discharged and the man was taken to a police vehicle.

He "became unresponsive" and despite the efforts of paramedics died a short time later, Staffordshire Police said.

'Highest Taser use'

The incident has been referred to the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC).

An IPCC report from July found Staffordshire Police to have the highest use of Tasers per capita in the country.

An independent panel found they were discharged on 72 occasions and drawn "as a deterrent" 547 times over nine years.

Neighbour Mark Finney, who lives near the flat involved in the incident, said: "I heard severe banging and shouting last night about 1.30. I got up to have a cup of coffee.

"There was somebody in distress and there was a lot of shouting and banging but I didn't know the police had been called.

"It seemed like somebody was arguing with somebody and shouting and banging things around."

Staffordshire's Police and Crime Commissioner Matthew Ellis said it was "immensely sad" the man had died.

But he said it was important to "understand the context" of the use of Tasers and officers will often brandish them as a preventative measure.

"Although the number of times it's taken from the holster is quite high, the number of times it is actually shot or fired is very low indeed," he said.

Mr Ellis said he was "hopeful and confident" footage from body cameras, introduced by the force last year, would prove "very useful indeed" to investigators.

He said had also asked the force's ethics, transparency and audit panel to look at the incident.

Image caption The occupants had left before officers arrived
Image caption Neighbour Mark Finney said he heard "severe banging and shouting"

Controversial Taser use

Tasers were introduced into British policing in 2003, but their use over the years has been surrounded with controversy:

Acpo said officers must pass a nationally recognised training course before they are allowed to deploy a Taser.

Commander Neil Basu, from Acpo, said: "While Taser is always an option of last resort, officers must be free to act in the best interests of public safety, whoever the person posing a threat may be."

Image caption The incident has been referred to the Independent Police Complaints Commission

In September it emerged that a review into the use of Tasers by the force found that officers discharged them on one out of 10 occasions when they were drawn.

The force used Tasers 33 times for every 100 officers in 2013, and a total of 619 times in nine years, according to the police watchdog.

The force said the use of a Taser was "a last resort for officers".

Solicitor Sophie Kahn, who has represented Taser victims, called for their use to be curbed while a national review is carried out.

"The Home Secretary ordered a review of Tasers in October this year due to the excessive use on vulnerable individuals," she said.

"As the spotlight is now firmly on police use of force, the Home Secretary should move to impose a temporary ban on Taser use whilst the review is ongoing."

What is a Taser?

Image copyright AP

The Taser fires two darts with a five-second, 50,000-volt charge, which can temporarily disable its target.

Its ammunition consists of a single-use compressed air cartridge which fires the darts and has to be replaced each time the weapon is fired.

Police guidelines stipulate the device may be used where officers face "a risk of serious violence".

Tasers were introduced in England and Wales in 2003 and rolled out across both countries in 2008, and were not limited to specialist firearms officers.

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