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13 September 2007 Edition

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Lethal TASER guns - the new plastic bullet?

Rubber and plastic bullets have been weapons of terror, used by the British forces in the Six Counties over many years to intimidate, terrorise and kill.
Since rubber bullets were first introduced in the North and later replaced by plastic bullets, 17 people – nine of them children and teenagers – have been killed by these lethal weapons. Thousands more were injured, many of them scarred and disabled for life.
Given the deadly history of plastic bullets and the recommendations in the Patten Report that they be replaced, it is unacceptable that the power to deploy them rests with the PSNI Chief Constable and not the Policing Board.
Plastic bullets should never be fired again on an Irish street. The victims of plastic bullets and their families have the right to truth about the indiscriminate deployment of this weapon over the years.
There is no documentary evidence to prove that controversial TASER guns, which the PSNI now propose to train its police officers to use, are any less lethal that plastic bullets.
Sinn Féin MLA Martina Anderson told a meeting of the North’s Policing Board Human Rights Committee this week that there is no justification for the PSNI to be armed with lethal TASER weapons that can fire 50,000 volts of electricity through the human body.
Amnesty International has documented over 245 deaths in the US over the past six years that have been linked to the controversial weapons. A British Government medical committee has also warned that not enough is known about the health risks of TASERS on children and pregnant women.
A proposal by the PSNI Chief Constable to proceed with a TASER training scheme before an equality impact assessment has been completed is unacceptable.
The PSNI is obliged by law to carry out an equality impact assessment into the effects of TASERS. When the PSNI Chief Constable first tried to introduce them without carrying out such an assessment, Sinn Féin succeeded in forcing him to abandon his plans and go back to the Equality Commission.
Now, Hugh Orde is proposing to begin training his officers in the use of TASERS at the same time as carrying out the equality impact assessment. This flies in the face of the advice he has received from the Equality Commission and is potentially a waste of police resources. Why begin training in a weapon that may never be given the go-ahead?
Plastic bullets have caused misery and death for many years in the North. The TASER gun should not become the new plastic bullet. Sinn Féin is fundamentally opposed to arming the police with TASERS and will continue to resist any attempt to introduce them.

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