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Easing Of Restrictions On Taser Use To Be Trialled

Police officers trained to a national standard will be able to use taser at their discretion for a year, with a decision then made on whether to stop it, extend the trial or allow it permanently.

Until now, officers who want to carry and deploy taser have to receive specific firearms authority.

The Home Affairs Minister proposed adjusting the rules after calling them 'problematic'.

The use of taser was first allowed in Jersey in 2014. Since then, it has been fired eight times.

In just 2020- taser has been fired on three occasions, drawn 20 times, and red-dotted 33 times.

Jersey Police have said the current rules risk public safety, and that allowing trained officers to decide themselves goes some way towards protecting the island.

They are able to use other equipment such as the baton and PAVA spray without needing authority, but that hasn't been the same for taser.

There were, however, concerns about a lack of specific data on its use over the last six years, taser possibly being used on children and it possibly leading to officers being deployed on their own. 

That led to Scrutiny suggesting a trial to gather more data on how and when they are deployed, ahead of another debate in a year's time.

Home Affairs Constable Len Norman accepted the trial - describing it as a measured and appropriate response to those who are uneasy about this change.

"It is important that we are able to provide our police officers with the protective equipment they need, but also that they are able to deploy that equipment tactically and quickly in the interest of public safety - our safety."

Jersey Police have said while there should be a presumption that taser will not be used on under 18s, they can never say never. One reason for that was that in an emergency situation, it may be difficult to judge the age of the person or that they might be a risk to the public, themselves, or the officer.

The Children's Commissioner says there should be no use of taser on children whatsoever, or failing that, only in 'exceptional and rare occasions'.

The force says taser has not been used on any young person in Jersey.

A further amendment to the change was approved, which means that any use of a taser, wherever practicable, must be recorded on body-worn cameras. That footage must then be submitted and logged along with the form from the incident.

A few States members admitted during the debate that they had changed their minds after initially insisting that they couldn't support such a change.

Deputy Kirsten Morel was one and described telling the Home Affairs Minister that he would never support it as a 'classic political schoolboy error' after going to a presentation with police officers to learn more about the change they wanted.

"What right do I have to deny them that (using taser at their discretion) when the alternative is basically asking police officers to engage with people, potentially violent people, upfront, very close, hand to hand, wrestling, punching, fighting, scratching?

"That sort of thing is what I'm asking them to do if I'm denying them the use of tasers."

Following approval in the States Assembly, the Home Affairs Minister released a statement thanking Scrutiny and describing it as 'a positive result'.

"Following today’s States Assembly debate regarding amending the current rules surrounding the authorised deployment of Tasers for the States of Jersey Police, I am pleased that we have reached a positive result in passing the proposition with the amendment. I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Children, Education and Home Affairs Scrutiny Panel for their robust review of the proposition.

Pic: Constable Len Norman speaking in the States Assembly last year.

"I believe that this is a proportionate response to the original proposition, and I, and the Senior Management team of the States of Jersey Police, welcome the opportunity to report back to Members after a trial period of one year as a measured approach to introducing these changes with an appropriate level of political oversight.

"This change brings the States of Jersey Police in line with all other British Police Forces (including Guernsey and the Isle of Man) and within national guidance in regarding Taser as standard PPE for officers. Enabling the Police to minimise risk and maximise the safety of those involved, with the overarching principle being to save and preserve life." - Constable Len Norman.

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