ALA calls for immediate examination of taser use in NSW

14th Nov 2012

The NSW Government should immediately examine the extent of use by police of Taser guns following damming findings given today by Coroner, Mary Jerram, into the death of Brazilian student, Laudisio Curti.

ALA Criminal Law spokesman and Barrister, Greg Barns, said the findings showed what appeared to have been an overly zealous use of a very dangerous weapon by NSW Police on an unarmed man who was mentally impaired by the presence of LSD in his system.

“The NSW Government should immediately review the way in which Tasers are used by members of the police service because, as we have seen in this case, such weapons can be associated with death and serious injury when not used appropriately,” Mr Barns said.

The recognised usage of Taser guns, by police in Australia, has been associated with four deaths and three serious cases of injury since they were first introduced in 2002. Three of the deaths were in NSW, and one in Northern Territory. The other incidents were in South Australia and another in far north Queensland.

“It is particularly disturbing, that despite this emerging and tragic trend, there has not been, as there has been in Canada and elsewhere, an independent and long-ranging inquiry into whether or not Taser guns should be used by police in Australia. And, if so, what degree of training police should undergo before being armed with such a weapon.

"Mr Curti, 21, died in March this year, just minutes after being Tasered up to 14 times, sprayed with two and a half cans of capsicum spray, and restrained by numerous police officers, one of whom Tasered him on the ground while Curti was alleged to have been struggling with what was described by police officers as ‘superhuman strength’ – something one might expect from a person unable to breathe.”

Mr Barns said the coroner’s findings showed Mr Curti’s death was clearly avoidable and that if police had acted calmly and followed procedures appropriate for a fleeing, partially clothed and agitated, unarmed man, he might still be alive today.

“Tasers should only have been used as a last resort, not shot into the back of an unarmed, fleeing man.

"Hopefully, these findings will lead to a full examination of the use of Tasers in NSW, as well as the rest of Australia, and clear nationally consistent guidelines developed, from such an investigation, to ensure the weapons are only ever used as a last resort to protect human life or serious injury,” Mr Barns said

Tags: NSW Criminal justice police powers