A petition has been launched that calls for a ban on the use of Taser firearms against people detained in locked psychiatric wards.
The Change.org petition is the latest stage in human rights campaign group Black Mental Health UK’s (BMH UK) drive to end the use of these stun guns in hospital settings.
This issue will be discussed during report stage on the Policing and Crime Bill that will take place in the House of Lords in December.
This move comes on the back of cross-party support for an amendment banning the use of Tasers in hospitals tabled by Liberal Democrat Health's spokesperson Baroness Joan Warmsley and backed by Labour's shadow health minister, Lord Andrew Rosser, and one of the most senior politicians from the UK's African Caribbean community, Lord Herman Ouseley.
The government has responded to calls for a ban of these firearms against detained patients by stating that local police and crime commissioners, chief constables and the chairs of local mental health crisis care concordat partnerships are the agencies responsible for identifying and scrutinising any use of Taser in mental health settings.
Matilda MacAttram (pictured), director of BMH UK, said: “People who have been detained in hospital under the Mental Health Act are recognised by the state to be a vulnerable group, they should not be subject to Taser; this is a clear indication that clinical needs are being met with a forensic response, this is not right.
“Our work has shattered the silence on an illicit practice that has been happening for almost 10 years now, but the unequal power balance between those subject to such treatment and statutory providers and the police has silenced public debate around this issue until, BMH UK's launched this campaign to ban Taser firearms in hospitals.
“Experts from the United Nations committee against torture stated in their final country report of the UK back in 2013 that Taser firearms are inadmissible in a place where there is a deprivation of liberty. Allowing the use of police firearms against vulnerable people who are held in locked psychiatric settings is a clear violation of their human rights and it must stop.
“Those who want to support this campaign should sign our petition calling for a complete ban on Taser firearms in detained psychiatric settings, and to tweet this petition using the hashtag ban#taser.”
For more information on the petition, click here
Matilda MacAttram recently blogged on this topic for Mental Health Today. To read her blog, click here.