Taser Guns

First Minister's Question Time – in the Scottish Parliament at 11:59 am on 12th January 2006.

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Photo of Jeremy Purvis Jeremy Purvis Liberal Democrat 11:59 am, 12th January 2006

To ask the First Minister whether the Scottish Executive supports operational police officers being routinely equipped with Taser guns. (S2F-2051)

Photo of Rt Hon Jack McConnell Rt Hon Jack McConnell Labour

Police officers in Scotland will not be routinely equipped with Taser guns. Tasers will be issued only to authorised firearms officers who have successfully completed an approved training course in the use of the device. Ministers support the use of Tasers provided that certain criteria are met, including adherence to the "Manual of Guidance on Police Use of Firearms", which was drawn up by the Association of Chief Police Officers and the Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland. Decisions to deploy firearms in individual situations are, correctly, a matter for chief constables.

Photo of Jeremy Purvis Jeremy Purvis Liberal Democrat

I warmly welcome the First Minister's response. As is the case with plastic bullet rounds, which were first used in Scotland in my constituency just before Christmas, Taser guns are to be given a cautious welcome as an additional, less lethal, alternative to the police using firearms. In addition to the assurances that he has given, will the First Minister ensure that, under the regulatory regime for the appropriate use of Taser guns—by firearms officers who have received the proper training—Tasers will be deployed only under the oversight of very senior police officers; that any use of Taser guns will be thoroughly scrutinised by a police officer from another force; and that the Scottish Executive will not allow the routine deployment of Tasers by police officers, which would itself put police officers and communities at risk? In his consideration of the use of Taser guns, will he take into account the health risks to people who are shot with them?

Photo of Rt Hon Jack McConnell Rt Hon Jack McConnell Labour

There were some detailed questions there, on which I am sure the Minister for Justice would be happy to write to the member. I reiterate what I have already said: police officers in Scotland will not be routinely equipped with Taser guns. Only approved officers will have access to them, and only in operational circumstances that are determined by the chief constable in each area. That is the right way for us to conduct ourselves.

At all times, we need to remember that, although Taser guns are a less lethal alternative—they are an attractive option for that reason—their use is important in situations where it might help to control difficult circumstances, including those of their first use in Scotland, which I believe was in a very dangerous incident close to my constituency, and in which I believe their use to have been extremely effective.

Photo of George Reid George Reid None

That concludes questions to the First Minister. I remind members that they should be back in the chamber at the earlier time of 2 pm for the election of a member to the Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body.

Meeting suspended until 14:00.

On resuming—