(2018-02-07) AUSTRALIA: Northern Territory Police should ‘carefully consider’ use of tasers on children, Ombudsman recommends [[Australia // children tasered // guidelines // watchdog]]

Published on February 7 2018 by admin


The NT Ombudsman has recommended police “carefully consider” the use of tasers on children, but has stopped short of backing a ban, in the wake of an officer using one on an unarmed 12-year-old boy.

The 12-year-old was a passenger in a stolen car when it pulled into a Bakewell petrol station in November 2016.

When police confronted the three boys in the car at the petrol station, the 12-year-old tried to run away and he was tasered by an officer from a distance of three metres.

An internal police investigation found the NT officer did not break any laws by tasering the child, but the Darwin Children’s Court said the officer’s actions were improper.

The national children’s commissioner has since called for the use of tasers on children to be eliminated.

But in a review of the incident, NT ombudsman Peter Shoyer said “the risk of death” associated with taser use “must be realistically assessed as very low”.

“But the severity of the potential outcome is extreme. I conclude that a rigorous and cautionary approach to taser use must prevail,” Mr Shoyer wrote.

“Although I have noted contrary views, I have not formed the view that taser use on children (even ‘young’ children) should be banned, so long as appropriate restrictions are maintained that limit the circumstances of use.”

The ombudsman handed down nine recommendations, including that NT Police “carefully consider” whether tasers should be used on children, and if so, to consider the inclusion of taser use on a child, regardless of age, as a “special circumstance”.

Officer provided remedial taser training, NT Police say

Mr Shoyer also recommended NT Police review the “special circumstances list” including taser use on people with a small stature or slight build and those with other vulnerabilities, more guidance to inform officers of the “inherent risks” of taser use, and specific restrictions on use of accoutrements like tasers and chemical sprays.

A draft copy of the ombudsman’s report was provided to NT Police for comment, and arrangements were made for NT Police to consult with the officer in question over the review.

The officer did not wish to comment, the ombudsman wrote.

In a briefing to the NT ombudsman, NT Police said it would continue to maintain specific restrictions on taser use.

“The Northern Territory Police Force are currently working on amendments … to provide additional guidance to officers in the use of tasers, particularly in special circumstances,” it said.

“We are reviewing current training materials and the focus on alternatives to the use of appointments, the use of taser on a child to being a special circumstance … the use of tasers on ‘fleeing suspects’, and a better monitoring system for taser usage.”

It said work, including internal and external consultation, to identify best practice advice, guidance and training on the issue was underway.

The officer in question has been “subject to remedial taser training” and advice around the use of excessive force and compliance with the code of conduct and ethics, it said.







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