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Tasers used to subdue mentally-ill patients in Leicestershire


Tasers have been used to subdue mentally-ill patients.

Police have deployed the stun guns on patients on 13 occasions in the past three years.

In response to a Freedom of Information Act request, the force said the weapon had been used twice on mental health wards and 11 times on people officers were taking to get treatment.

A health watchdog at Leicester City Council said it would look into why Tasers were used on the patients.

In a statement, Leicestershire Police said: "In the vast majority of these cases, the individuals were attempting to self-harm and Taser was used as a method of last resort to protect them from further harm."

Superintendent Mark Newcombe, who is in charge of operations in the city, said: "We do sometimes get calls to assist medical staff in situations where there is a physical risk to a member of the public or to staff.

"Officers attending such incidents determine an appropriate response based on consideration of the threat, harm and risk posed at that time.

"The use of Taser is one of a range of tactical options that can be deployed to resolve such situations."

Managers at Leicestershire Partnership NHS Trust, which runs mental and community health services, said it had one record of a Taser being used in a ward in the past three years, rather than the two incidents stated by the police.

Teresa Smith, acting divisional director for adult mental health at the trust, said: "It is part of mental health care that, on occasion, some service users present with behaviours that may put at risk their own safety and the safety of others.

"As a last resort and after other techniques have been considered or tried, we very occasionally ask the police to assist medical staff in situations where there is a physical risk to a member of the public or to staff."

Michael Cooke, chairman of Leicester City Council's health scrutiny commission, said: "I would like to know more about this.

"I want to find out why it was felt necessary to use this method."

Vicki Nash, head of policy and campaigns at national mental health charity Mind, said: "Tasers are extreme and controversial weapons that we believe should only be used as a last resort by police.

"They can cause extreme distress, so to use them on people who are experiencing a mental health crisis and already displaying signs of distress, can make things even more traumatic."

Speaking about the police nationwide, she said: "A better understanding of mental health problems would allow police to recognise those experiencing a crisis and defuse a situation before resorting to weapons such as Tasers.

"There is no substitute for comprehensive mental health training."

Supt Newcombe said by "working closely with mental health services", the force had been able to reduce the number of people it felt it had to detain under the Mental Health Act and reduce the average amount of time it took officers to hand those it did detain into the care of mental health professionals.

He said: "We have also introduced a mental health triage car, which is staffed by a police officer and a mental health nurse. It is available for advice and to help officers responding to mental health incidents."

He said the car was "a really good way" of making sure patients were directed towards the most suitable care while ensuring "those accountable for their actions are appropriately dealt with by the criminal justice system".

Tasers used to subdue  mentally-ill patients in Leicestershire

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