Campaigners have expressed serious concerns after it emerged that a police officer used a 50 000 volt “Taser” stun-gun on a man who had just had an epileptic seizure.
Officers from Greater Manchester Police (GMP) are now facing an investigation by the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC).
Paramedics who were called to the Powerleague gym in Manchester last November were reportedly hit and bitten accidentally as they tried to assist the 40-year-old man.
When police officers arrived, one of them used his Taser on the man, who was also physically “restrained”.
The IPCC said the incident – from the man’s “collapse” to his transfer to hospital – lasted about an hour, and he spent two weeks recovering in hospital.
He lodged an official complaint with GMP, alleging that the officers were negligent and used excessive and unnecessary force.
His complaint was referred to the IPCC, which this week announced an investigation.
IPCC commissioner Naseem Malik said: “This man suffered an epileptic seizure and it is clear paramedics were struggling to treat him due to the violence of that seizure.
“Our investigation will be thorough and examine the appropriateness of the actions taken by the police officers who attended to assist the paramedics.”
Monica Cooper, epilepsy services manager for the charity Epilepsy Action, said: “We are disturbed that the police used a Taser on a person who was clearly in, or recovering from, a medical emergency.
“A Taser should not be used on a person who is having, or has recently had, a seizure.
“During a seizure, and for a period of time afterwards, the person may not be fully aware of their surroundings or what is happening, and they may be confused.
“Police officers should be trained to recognise that seizure activity can be mistaken for violent or inappropriate behaviour.”
The charity said it hoped the IPCC would recommend a review of training for police on dealing with seizures.
Peter Boatman, director of Protect Systems, which distributes Tasers in the UK, said police officers are “not told that they cannot use Tasers on someone who has epilepsy”, but added: “Epilepsy is one of the areas where they are saying they need more research.”
Superintendent Mike Freeman, of GMP, said: “Officers were called to this incident because the 40-year-old man in question was suffering a seizure and posing an immediate threat to the safety of himself and others and had assaulted a number of paramedics.
“As an IPPC investigation is underway it would be inappropriate for us to comment further.”
14 April 2010