Northern Ireland

Ombudsman calls for armed response officers to have head-mounted cameras

PSNI armed response police officers in Northern Ireland should be provided with head-mounted cameras, Police Ombudsman Marie Anderson has recommended (Niall Carson/PA)
PSNI armed response police officers in Northern Ireland should be provided with head-mounted cameras, Police Ombudsman Marie Anderson has recommended (Niall Carson/PA) PSNI armed response police officers in Northern Ireland should be provided with head-mounted cameras, Police Ombudsman Marie Anderson has recommended (Niall Carson/PA)

Armed response police officers in Northern Ireland should be provided with head-mounted cameras to ensure improved footage of weapons discharges, the Police Ombudsman has recommended.

It follows an investigation which found that footage recorded by the shoulder-mounted camera of an officer who fired a Taser had been obstructed, compromising its evidential value.

Ombudsman Marie Anderson said: “Body-worn video provides valuable evidence of the circumstances in which armed officers choose to use significant levels of force.

“In this case the footage was obstructed by the officer’s other police equipment, largely due to the camera having been mounted on the chest/shoulder area.”

Mrs Anderson made the recommendation following an investigation which found that an officer had been justified in firing a Taser during an incident in north Belfast in August 2021.

Officers had been deployed after police received a 999 call stating that a man had made threats to kill a family member.

Police located his car outside the home of his former partner. A number of children were registered as living at the address.

A statement from the Police Ombudsman said armed response officers were advised that the man had a history of violence, was immune to the effects of CS spray, and had been involved in a previous incident in which it had taken eight police officers to restrain him.

Officers advised Police Ombudsman investigators that the man appeared to have been intoxicated, was irate, had blood dripping from a hand and was holding a long slim item. They said they heard him shouting at someone else in the house.

The ombudsman said the officer who fired the Taser said she did so when he went to re-enter the property after being told to come out with his hands on his head. Her account was corroborated by body-worn video footage and colleagues.

Gerard Lawlor death
Gerard Lawlor death Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland Marie Anderson outside her office in Belfast (Liam McBurney/PA)

The first discharge missed but a second connected and the man was then successfully restrained by her colleagues.

The officer said she acted to prevent the man harming himself or others.

She added that she had considered other options, including the use of PAVA incapacitant spray, an AEP baton round and her handheld baton, but considered Taser to be the most appropriate means of resolving the situation.

Anderson found that the use of the Taser had been “reasonable, necessary and proportionate” in the circumstances, and noted that the officer had adopted a “graduated and flexible approach” to the situation in compliance with police instruction.