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 Robert Brown Robert Brown Liberal Democrat 2:15 pm, 1st July 2010

To ask the Scottish Executive how far it sets policy with regard to the use of Tasers by police forces. (S3O-11110)

I ask that with a sense of déjà vu.

Photo of Alex Fergusson Alex Fergusson None

There is a lot of déjà vu about this afternoon.

Photo of Kenny MacAskill Kenny MacAskill Scottish National Party

As I explained earlier, the Scottish Government has no role in setting policy on the use of Tasers by police forces in Scotland. Policy and legislation on Tasers are reserved to Westminster and their deployment is an operational matter for chief constables.

Photo of Robert Brown Robert Brown Liberal Democrat

I want to pursue the Scottish Government's claim that the police in Scotland do not require ministerial approval to possess or use Tasers because of the principle of Crown immunity. Does the cabinet secretary claim that Crown immunity applies to chief constables? Does he agree that that is a very wide-ranging claim? Will he elaborate on what it means in practice? Does it mean, for example, that a police force could not be sued for reckless or negligent use of a Taser or for intentional but unjustified use of a Taser? Given the fact that Tasers are firearms, does the cabinet secretary allege that the police also have Crown immunity in connection with the deployment and use of other firearms? If so, is that not the most extraordinary claim to be heard in the Parliament in many years?

Photo of Kenny MacAskill Kenny MacAskill Scottish National Party

No, it does not mean that. That is a claim that I have never made. I can only repeat what I said earlier. In respect of Crown immunity, section 54 of the Firearms Act 1968 does not apply section 5 to Crown servants. The police are Crown servants, which means that the police are exempt from the whole of section 5, including section 5(1), which contains a requirement for Scottish ministers and others to provide authorisation for the purchase, possession and use of Tasers. Basically, we have no control over what they do. Clearly, if an officer or a force acted inappropriately, whether with a firearm or with a Taser, they would face potential action. However, the Government is required to sign off regulations relating to individuals; we do not have any requirement for police officers to be in touch with us.