Tasers (Police Use)

Justice and Law Officers – in the Scottish Parliament at 2:15 pm on 1st July 2010.

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Photo of Patricia Ferguson Patricia Ferguson Labour 2:15 pm, 1st July 2010

To ask the Scottish Executive whether it considers that the use of Tasers by police officers in the execution of their duties is legal. (S3O-11163)

Photo of Kenny MacAskill Kenny MacAskill Scottish National Party

Firearms legislation is the responsibility of the United Kingdom Government. The deployment and use of Tasers is an operational matter for chief constables. Scottish ministers have no role in promoting legislation on Tasers nor in authorising their use. It is for chief constables to ensure that Tasers are deployed in accordance with the law. However, our police are highly professional and we trust them to make sound judgments on the use of Tasers.

Photo of Patricia Ferguson Patricia Ferguson Labour

I appreciate the minister's point, but I am sure that he is aware of the view of a number of human rights groups and solicitors who specialise in the field that both the use and possession of Tasers are legally dubious. Has the Government taken legal advice in that regard? If so, would the minister make it available to members? Further, has the Government instructed any research to be carried out in respect of disturbing reports of a link between use of those guns and nearly 300 deaths in Canada and America? If it has not, will the minister commit to do so?

Photo of Kenny MacAskill Kenny MacAskill Scottish National Party

No, we have no intention of carrying out such research. The research to which the member referred relates to matters across the Atlantic ocean, and we do not believe that it is relevant here. We have great faith in our police and we believe that they act proportionately and legitimately. Tasers are necessary for the protection of others as well as for the protection of officers in difficult circumstances.

Our position is clear. Tasers are weapons defined as firearms under section 5(1)(b) of the Firearms Act 1968. Section 54 of that act does not apply section 5 to Crown servants. In effect, that exempts Crown servants, of whom the police are one, from the whole of section 5, which contains a requirement for Scottish ministers and others to provide authorisation for the purchase, possession and use of Tasers. Therefore, the police do not need any authorisation from Scottish ministers to use Tasers, although we are, as a Government, aware that they have been used. When they have been used, their use seems to us to have been proportionate, reasonable and done for the protection of both officers and other civilians.