Victory in sight for ban on tasering detained patients

Wednesday, 05 October 2016


Exposing injustice

An opinion piece published in Britain's leading black newspaper, The Voice entitled Victory in sight for BMH UK Taser campaign shows just much our organisation has achieved, as the only agency that has worked on exposing and lobbying parliament to bring an end the injustice of the use of this firearms against vulnerable patients detained in mental health settings.

Read the republished article here.

BMH UK's Campaign to ban Taser against detained patients a step closer to becoming law

The_Voice_2-10-16_Victory_in_sight_BMH_UK_Taser_Ban_featureBMH UK's campaign to secure a ban on the illicit practice of police deploying Taser against patients detained under the Mental Health Act on locked psychiatric wards is a step closer to becoming law, as an amendment to the Policing and Crime Bill made by the former minister for mental heath the Rt Hon Norman Lamb MP on our organisation's behalf, has been re-tabled for debate in the House of Lords, and will be deliberated by peers next week.

The culture of cover-up that dominates these sectors and unequal power balance between those subject to such treatment by statutory mental health providers and the police has silenced public debate around this issue.

However this unethical practice has gone on for over 10 years without any monitoring or redress for patients detained in psychiatric hospitals.

The powerful vested interests that dominate this sector has meant that BMH UK's achievement of bringing this hidden human rights abuse to light has been no mean feat.

While termed non lethal weapons, the tragic death of premier league footballer Dalian Atkinson, after he was Tasered and beaten by the police in August, has raised questions about the dangers that these firearms pose.

Black Britain

Taser_gun_being_releasedAtkinson death has also brought to the fore the disproportionate use of Taser firearms against back Britons.

It has also spotlighted the often lethal levels of force that the police use against people from the UK's African Caribbean communities, and particularly those who are most vulnerable.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission's (IPCC) Police Use of Force study published earlier this year showed that those with a mental health condition are more likely to be Tasered and subject to multiple uses of force while in custody. Data also shows that a staggering 40% of police time is spent on mental health related incidents.

However there is still no monitoring on the frequency with which police are attending hospital wards or any transparency on how often patients are being Tasered or subject to the use of other types of police weaponry.

United Nations

The United Nations Committee Against Torture has spoken out about their deep concerned at instances where Taser firearms are being used against people with disabilities living in the UK.

UN_LOGOThe UN are clear that Taser guns should be inadmissible in any place where there is a deprivation of liberty.

Data shows that black people continue to be disproportionately subject to detention under the Mental Health Act even though there isn't a higher prevalence of mental illness amongst black people of African descent living in the UK, either of common mental disorder or of psychosis.

Rather 'high incidence of labelling black people with psychosis or schizophrenia.

There are parts of London that have some of the highest rates of detention of people under the Mental Health Act in the country, and the inpatient population of many of the secure wards in the capital are 100% African Caribbean.

The London Assembley's Police and Crime Commission's report on Taser, found that 50% of people subject to Taser in the capital are black people from the UK's African Caribbean community, even though they account for just 10% of people living in this city.

Charles Walker MP, the vice chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Mental Health, has spoken out about the need for closer monitoring of police deployment on psychiatric wards. During the debate of the Police and Crime Bill in the House of Commons he called for the police to be obliged to report every incident where they attend a psychiatric ward within a week the police and crime commissioner and the IPCC for investigation.

Absence of safeguards against abuse

mental_health_butt4There is definitely an urgent need for both the IPCC and also the Care Quality Commission (CQC), which is responsible for safeguarding against abuse of those subject to detention under the Mental Health Act to monitor what is happening in this area.

However BMH UK remain clear that nothing but an outright ban on the use of Taser firearms against people detained under the Mental Health Act is acceptable.

The UK was one of the early proponents of the UN Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment (CAT), that aimed to prevent ill treatment of those in detention, and the Government currently puts torture prevention as a priority of its foreign policy.

BMH UK are hopeful that peers in the House of Lords will support an amendment to ban Taser use against patients detained in psychiatric hospitals during the debate on the Policing and Crime Bill so that the that the protections afforded under CAT are upheld for those locked away in detained psychiatric settings in the UK.


By Matilda MacAttram director Black Mental Health UK and Fellow, United Nations Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent.

Copyright © 2016 Matilda MacAttram All rights reserved.

For information on obtaining permission to resue this work email This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

This article may not be reprinted without the author's written permission, where published the authors byline, biography and copyright notice are retained in their entireity.

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