Tuesday 15 April 2014

Tasers---Mission Creep and Abuse of Human Rights

It was almost 7 years ago when Deputy Gerard Baudains asked a question of the Minister of Home Affairs about the possibility of the States of Jersey Police being armed with Taser Guns.

Two years ago the Taser issue again came into the public domain when the Education and Home Affairs Scrutiny Panel decided to scrutinise the desirability of the Home Affairs Minister’s intention to approve the purchase of Tasers as an addition the States Police’s armoury.

At that time I published two Blogs whereby I raised a number of concerns which received a number of  comments. The Blogs can be accessed below.

I was the founder and am a member of the Jersey Human Rights Group and naturedly had an interest in the matter and our Group made written and oral submissions to the Scrutiny Panel. The Panel subsequently published a report in which it identified 8 key findings and 20 recommendations.

The Home Affairs Minister recently lodged a proposition P18/2014 seeking States approval to endorse his intention to authorise the deployment and use of Taser Guns by the States Police in accordance with a number principles. These principles were pretty much in line with what the Jersey Human Rights Group and others had recommended. They are really safeguards to prevent abuse when deploying Tasers.

It was a case of taking a pragmatic approach because the States Police already has a wide range of firearms in its armoury and they did not require States approval to purchase Tasers. I believe there are few people; police included who wish to see police officers kitted out with firearms as seen in some countries around the world. Therefore it is to be hoped that Tasers and other guns will remain firmly locked in the armoury and only deployed as a very last resort.

In support of the case for Tasers I was amused at some of reasons put forward by the Minister, Senator Le Marquand who was the same Minister who defended the disgraceful suspension of the former police chief Graham Power and who released the Wiltshire Report but denied Mr Power the right of a Hearing. Where were Senator Le Marquand’s concerns for Human Rights? And more recently where were his concerns for Human Rights in relation to the arrest, detention and deportation of the lady in the Jersey Dean case.

Senator Le Marquand was of the view that Tasers are urgently required to allow for the States Police to comply with the Human Rights (Jersey) Law 2000. In his opinion the absence of Tasers in the police armoury renders the police and therefore the States of Jersey potentially vulnerable to a claim arising from the Human Rights Law.

National guidance on the management, deployment and command of Armed Officers requires that every action taken, including the issues of firearms and Tasers, be proportionate, lawful, appropriate and necessary to the prevailing circumstances and must be the least intrusive means of resolution. This therefore requires the complete compliance with the Human Rights (Jersey) Law 2000 and the European Convention of Human Right Article 2. The absence of Tasers in Jersey, arguably, does not allow for compliance with this stance.

The above paragraph can be found in the P18/2014 below. I found it an interesting comment and well worth a second read and in particular noting the last sentence were the word “arguably” appears. It is also of interest to note that the Solicitor General was not asked for a view because he is often asked for one when a Backbencher argues that a particular proposal he/she is proposing would render the States to a Convention challenge if the proposal was not approved.

If a Backbencher had brought the proposition which was not supported by the Home Affairs Minister it is highly likely that he would have opposed it on the grounds that “arguably” it was not a Convention breach and would have sought support from the Solicitor General as evidenced in his successful opposition to the removal of Jurats from the Visitors Panel at La Moye Prison.

It may well be that Tasers are less lethal than conventional firearms but they are lethal and the public is also entitled to their Human Rights. They will not be enamoured to learn that the Human Rights Law is being used as justification for Tasers being used against them .It could be “argued” that whilst Tasers are less lethal than some of the weapons in the police armoury, there are also less lethal weapons than Tasers which could be used, such as truncheons, batons, CS gas or even just being talked out of a situation.

Tasers are just part of a mission creep approach away from traditional policing and the Human Rights Law should not be used to justify their introduction.

One further piece of information that came to light was the lowering of the bar when it comes to justification for the deployment of firearms. The former wording stated that a firearms authority could be granted if a person is, “in possession of, or has access to a firearm.” The revised national authorisation wording now sets an authorisation criteria when a person is “in possession of, or has access to a firearm or any other potentially lethal weapon.”

It is another example of mission creep which will now allow for armed police to be deployed in circumstances where a suspect may be in possession of a screw driver or similar tool that can be interpreted "for lethal use."

One of the reasons why it has taken nearly 7 years for the Minister to lodge the proposition was because of export restrictions between the UK and Jersey for Tasers. The UK had an export ban for such weapons to over seas territories until it was lifted in 2012. It does seem strange that it was legal to export lethal weapons such as high powered rifles and pistols yet illegal to export less lethal weapons like Tasers.

It was claimed that Jersey was the only place in the UK where there was a ban on Tasers. That should a record that the Island should be proud of. One record the Island can be proud of is that our Police have never had cause to fire at anyone. It is to be hoped that the record will not be broken in the mistaken belief that Tasers are supposedly less lethal and do not kill anyone. Whilst it was claimed that no has been shot dead by a Taser, never the less people have died as a result of being shot by one. It matters not whether it was a direct hit that killed you or as a consequence of being hit. Once dead you stay dead.

The States Members heavily supported Senator Le Marquand’s proposition. One is now left to wonder how soon Tasers will be deployed in Jersey.


  1. Bob.

    "In support of the case for Tasers I was amused at some of reasons put forward by the Minister, Senator Le Marquand who was the same Minister who defended the disgraceful suspension of the former police chief Graham Power and who released the Wiltshire Report but denied Mr Power the right of a Hearing. Where were Senator Le Marquand’s concerns for Human Rights?"

    As asked by the former Chief Police Officer himself in a complaint to former Chief Minister, Terry Le Sueur and IGNORED

    1. The Graham Power suspension was another dark day for Jersey justice where people in positions of power and responsibility only play lip service to Human Rights.

  2. This is beyond farce.

    Human rights require police to be armed with tasers, but not that children are protected from abuse or their abusers brought to justice.

    The devil can quote scripture ... ...

    1. It's a case of abusing the Human Rights Law when it suits an argument but then ignoring the Law when it suits the powers that be.

  3. Ian Le Marquand Mike Bowron et al keep saying Jersey is one of the safest places in the world. If Jersey is that safe why do the cops want tazers?

    1. Yes, it does seem to be a contradiction.

  4. Jersey is full of pedos who don't need to be tazered they just need the protection of the bent law office which they get in droves.

    1. I don't think the Island is that bad, but there are times when one is left to wonder. I would hope that Tasers are not used on anyone and if there are allegations of abuse that they are investigated without fear or favour.

    2. @ 19:45 'Protect influential paedophiles and abusers on the island?'

      At the end of the BBC clip where Chief Minister Frank Walker "shafts Jersey internationally” on Newsnight [Feb2008] Frank gives an unequivocal promise that all perpetrators and concealers will ruthlessly be brought to justice.

      It turns out that many suspects who the then police wanted prosecuting were NOT prosecuted by the law offices

      Le Marquand was later instrumental in maintaining the MULTIPLE suspensions against respected Chief Police Officer G.Power.

      I do hope that you are not suggesting that Le Marquand would lie or misrepresent situations any more than Frank Walker would.....

      If you leave a cancer in place does it get better or worse?

  5. To the sender of the Comment relating to a scaffolding incident.

    The matter took place almost 30 years ago and the person conflicted has been dead for around 15 years. I would need to know why the matter was not addressed at the time and if it was, what did the injured person do about it and why is the matter being raised now.

    I am happy to discuss the matter in confidence and ask that you contact me.

    1. With reference to the above, I have spoken to the former States Member and we are both of the view that it would be too difficult trying to resolve a matter which is so far back and the conflicted person is dead.