A ban on the use of Taser firearms against people detained on locked psychiatric wards will be among amendments debated on the second day of report stage of the Policing and Crime Bill in the House of Commons today.
This move comes after calls by human rights campaigns group Black Mental Health UK (BMH UK) for a ban. BMH UK has been lobbying for to end the use of Taser in psychiatric settings since the decision was taken for this firearm to be made more widely available to officers.
During the ongoing expansion of Taser deployment to frontline officers across the UK, mental health providers have drawn up clinical policy on the use of Taser in secure psychiatric settings.
BMH UK say the deployment of police weaponry against those in a healthcare setting raises human rights concerns, as Taser or Conductive Electrical Devices (CEDs) are classed as restricted firearm under Section 5 of the 1968 Firearms Act.
The United Nations Committee Against Torture stated that TaserX26 weapons provoke extreme pain and constitute a form of torture.
For BMH UK this practice raises a number of concerns including the unmonitored use of Taser against those detained in hospital and the absence of any accountability or redress for patients who have been Tasered.
Former Care Services Minister, the Rt Hon Norman Lamb MP (pictured), is supporting BMH UK's call for an end to this practice and has tabled an amendment calling for a ban on the use of Taser or CEDs on psychiatric wards.
Matilda MacAttram, director of BMH UK, welcomed Lamb’s amendment. “Taser has been used against patients detained in secure psychiatric settings for more than 10 years: But the culture of cover-up that dominates these sectors and the unequal power balance between those subject to such treatment and statutory providers and the police has silenced public debate around this issue.
“This practice raises questions not only over proportional use of force, but also the lawful use of firearms against those known to have a mental health condition in a custodial environment.
“These human rights concerns disproportionately impact on the lives of black people from the UK's African Caribbean communities, as even though there isn't a higher prevalence of mental illness amongst this group, they continue to be over-represented in these settings.
“Taser guns are a firearm and, as such, BMH UK are of the view that they have no place in a clinical setting. We hope that Norman Lamb's amendment is accepted, so this kind of treatment against a vulnerable group is banned.”