Death provokes challenge on Tasers

25Apr09

australian-police1originally published:
18th April 2009
all credits: The Australian

An Alice Springs man has died in police custody after both capsicum spray and a Taser were used to restrain him when police were called to a domestic dispute.

The 39-year-old man confronted police in Alice Springs about 10.30pm on Thursday and continued to struggle after capsicum spray and the Taser were used, Northern Territory Police said. “After a short time police observed the person was not breathing and immediately commenced CPR,” they said. “Ambulance officers arrived and continued to administer CPR. However, the man died a short time later at the Alice Springs Hospital.”

The death is being investigated by the Major Crime Division on behalf of the Northern Territory Coroner. The investigation will be overseen by the police Ethical and Professional Standards Command. The death sparked renewed calls for Taser use to be stopped.

Australian Council for Civil Liberties president Terry O’Gorman called for their use to be suspended until medical and scientific tests on the dead man were concluded. In Brisbane, criminal defence lawyer Michael Bosscher called on the Queensland Government to immediately suspend police use of Tasers pending a safety review following the death of the Northern Territory man.

In January, Queensland’s police force became Australia’s first to issue Tasers to general duties officers as debate raged around the world over the use of the stun guns, which have been blamed for more than 50 deaths in the US since 2001 and at least one fatality in Australia, in NSW in 2002.

“What we have feared has happened,” Mr Bosscher said. “Someone has died after being hit by a police Taser. “Although the fatality was in the Northern Territory, the Queensland Government should immediately suspend their use here and conduct thorough, and publicly accountable, safety tests on the devices,” Mr Bosscher said.

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