Hashtag ban#taser launched for parliamentary debate
Human rights campaigns group Black Mental Health UK (BMH UK) have launched a new hash tag ban#taser in support of their drive to see an outright ban on the illicit use of these police firearms against patients detained in locked psychiatric wards.
This move comes on the back of cross party support for an amendment banning these fire arms in hospital that has been tabled by Liberal Democrat Health's spokesperson Baroness Joan Warmsley to the Policing and Crime Bill that will be debatted in the House of Lords this week.
New clause 192 has been drafted to : 'Disallow use of Tasers by police officers on psychiatric wards' then adds: 'A police officer may not use a Taser or electroshock weapon during deployment on a psychiatric ward.'
The amendment backed by Labour's shadow health minister Lord Andrew Rosser and one of the most senior politicians from the UK's African Caribbean community Lord Herman Ouseley is an indication of the growing support that BMH UK's calls for an end to this human rights violation. Back in 2013 the UN committee against torture highlighted their concern over the use of this firearm against people held in custodial or detained settings in their report following a country visit to the UK.
Amendment to Policing and Crime Bill
BMH UK remains the only organisation that has spoken out about this issue and has single handedly put it on the political agenda through their work on lobblying for changes to the Policing and Crime Bill.
Currently the use of these police firearms against patients goes unmonitored by the health and social care regulator the Care Quality Commission (CQC), which is the agency that has been responsible for protecting the rights of those detained under the Mental Health Act.
Back in August 2016, BMH UK wrote to the Chief executive of this health watchdog about their concerns over the unethical practice of police deployment of Taser against those detained in secure psychiatric settings.
In this letter BMH UK's director Matilda MacAttram requested that the CQC monitor and publish data on this practice and also how often police are being required to attend incidents on psychiatric wards, however to date the campaigns group has not received any reply.
Politicians shattering silence on human rights abuse
The call for an outright ban on the use of these stun guns patients locked in secure psychiatric ward was first debated in parliament by the former minister for mental health, the Rt Hon Norman Lamb MP after he was briefed by BMH UK on this issue in June this year, during the House of Commons debate on the Policing and Crime Bill.
Both Norman Lamb and the vice chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Mental Health, Charles Walker MP, OBE, called on the government to acknowledge and address BMH UK's concerns on this issue.
The disproportionate use of force that black people from the UK's African Caribbean communities are subject to at the hands of the police was highlighted in the Her Majesty's Inspectorate of the Constabulary (HMIC)'s report on the treatment of vulnerable people, published in 2014.
The high profile David Bennett inquiry report also put a national spotlight on the punitive and coercive treatment that black people that come in contact with mental health services are routinely subject to.
Since the publication of the Bennett report an ever increasing body of data continues to show that black people of African descent continue to be disproportionately subject to detention under the Mental Health Act, even though there isn't a higher prevalence of mental illness amongst this group.
State violence against black Briton
A report by the City Hall's Police and Crime Committee on Taser showed that a staggering 50% of people that are subject to this stun gun in the Capital are from London's African Caribbean communities.
The levels of force that are meted out to black people of African descent by state agencies, which is not experienced in the same way by other non white or minority groups is an issue that historically has never been properly addressed.
This is largely because the injustice this black Briton's face are all too often dealt with under the banner of BME (Black and ethnic minority) issues, to the detriment of the black African Caribbean communities that are subject to the worst injustices.
This way of dealing with the inequalities that black Britons by the Government and state agencies is an injustice in itself that urgently needs to be addressed if we are to see any improvement in the inequalities faced by black people.
Anti-black racism/African-phobic racism
BMH UK's work on Taser is part of the drive not only to highlight and bring an end to the injustice that those detained in the 'care' of the state who have been subject to these police firearms, but also to put a spotlight on the disproportunate levels of state violence that black Britons of African descent are suffering without any redress.
The much needed change that needs to happen on these issues will only being to happen when there is an acknowledgment of the anti-black/African-phobic racism faced by this group; what is equally important is that any government response or national initiative or strategy that is implimented to address these injustices are led by those who come from this community, with a track record and sound knowledge of working on these issues. It is not engough to put someone from the community to lead on these issuse if they do not have an understading of anti-black/African-phobic racism it is also critically important that such work is not conflated with issues affecting other minority groups, as we have seen in the past.
BMH UK call on those who want to help us end these injustices to use the new ban#taser hashtag and the @bmhuk twitter handle in their tweets to raise awareness about BMH UK's campaign to ban Taser firearms on locked psychiatric wards, and also the other work we are doing to put a national spotlight and bring an end to the disproportionate levels of state violence that black people of African descent are subject by state agencies including mental health services and the police.
By Matilda MacAttram
Copyright © 2016 Matilda MacAttram All rights reserved.
For information on obtaining permission to resue this work email
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.