Looking online it is hard to find the specific rules for Taser use by the police. I have found this from the National Police Chiefs' Concil:

Why use [Conducted Energy Devices (CED)] at all?

CEDs provide an additional option to resolve situations, including the threat of serious violence, which can come from any section of the public.

And the Police Foundation:

Currently Taser is only to be used where firearms would have been authorised or where an officer faces severe violence such that he or she needs to use force to protect the public, themselves and/or the subject

And the College of Policing:

Taser should only be used as a proportionate response to an identified threat. It should not be used to simply gain compliance with instructions or procedures where compliance is not linked to such a threat

There was a case in the news earlier this year where they seem to have been used outside this situation. It is described so, by the 80 year old target of the taser who was awaken by the officers, and was in his pajamas:

“At least four fully-dressed police officers carrying machine guns shone dazzling flashlights in my face, all shouting and shouting something unintelligible at me. They gave me no instructions, nothing.

“Suddenly one of them fired this Taser at me and the electricity started to zap. It hit me in the stomach and upper leg and I fell on the kitchen floor, powerless.

“Then they jumped on me, knelt on my back to pin me to the tiled floor, twisted my arms behind my back, handcuffed me and told me I was under arrest for a fight.”

This sounds completely contrary to the statements above. Is there any criminal law that restricts police Taser use? What charges could be brought in such situations, and what defenses could be used?

  • 1
    Any hints about the reason for the down vote?
    – User65535
    Commented Jun 7, 2022 at 8:44
  • I didn't downvote, but...you are very focussed on one case, which seems (on the face of it) not to have been a legal or appropriate use of a Taser. But it's also clearly a mistake, as it says in the report you quote. You express surprise that the case appears to contravene the rules, but that's pretty obvious. Are you actually interested in the particulars of this case, or of the general restrictions on Taser use (which you seem to know). If you want to know what the restrictions are, quoting this case seems irrelevant. Or are you just wanting to post a question about this case? Commented Jun 7, 2022 at 14:11
  • I am interested in the general restrictions on taser use. There have been other cases that I thought about linking, but this one seemed to encapsulate my question best, as there seemed no legal justification nor any suggestion of criminal charges. The links had only internal police rules about when it is advised they are used, but no information about the statute or case law governing/restricting their use which is what I am interested in.
    – User65535
    Commented Jun 7, 2022 at 14:17
  • If you want to know what the restrictions are, I don't see the need to cite a case at all. In fact since this case seems to be one where police thought they were using a Taser appropriately because of who they were dealing with, but had the wrong person, it's actually not very illuminating of the general case. Feel free to keep asking if you want. I think you'd get fewer downvotes if you asked a general question. Commented Jun 7, 2022 at 14:21
  • 2
    That was my down vote - I did it in error and have corrected my innocent mistake. Small screen and fat fingers are to blame. +1 and sorry!!
    – user35069
    Commented Jun 7, 2022 at 19:11

2 Answers 2


I will only offer a general answer as I have no desire to enter the quagmire of potential sub-judice bearing in mind the cited case seems to be under investigation according to the BBC article:

The Metropolitan Police has apologised and referred itself to the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC).

The IOPC has since instructed the Met to conduct the investigation, but said if the complainant was unhappy with the outcome he would have the right of review.

Beyond the requirements to pass various courses and achieving regular re-accreditation to carry a Taser - either as an Autorised Firearms Officer (AFO) or an Autorised Taser Officer (ATO) - there are no specific rules covering its use not already covered by the OP's links.

The relevant legislation is no different from, say, using a baton, applying handcuffs, spraying PAVA, or just by getting hold of someone to stop them running away - it must be reasonable in the circumstances.

There are three areas of law that permit a police officer to use force, Taser or otherwise:

Section 117, Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984:

Where any provision of this Act —

(a) confers a power on a constable [e.g. to make and arrest]; and

(b) does not provide that the power may only be exercised with the consent of some person, other than a police officer,

the officer may use reasonable force, if necessary, in the exercise of the power.

Section 3, Criminal Law Act 1967:

(1) A person may use such force as is reasonable in the circumstances in the prevention of crime, or in effecting or assisting in the lawful arrest of offenders or suspected offenders or of persons unlawfully at large.

(2) Subsection (1) above shall replace the rules of the common law on the question when force used for a purpose mentioned in the subsection is justified by that purpose.

Common Law allows a person to use reasonable force to:

(a) Defend himself from an attack.

(b) Prevent an attack on another person [..]

(c) Defend his property.

All officers are trained to use the National Decision Model to assist with "dynamic risk assessment" when considering using force.

If an officer cannot reasonably justify its use as being necessary and proportionate to a perceived threat then, in all likelihood, it may well be at the very least unlawful assault. What offences an officer commits, if any, will depend on the particular circumstances.


Also, Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights - Right to life comes into play.

Article 2 ECHR applies to the use of lethal or potentially lethal force.

(1) Everyone’s right to life shall be protected by law. No one shall be deprived of his life intentionally save in the execution of a sentence of a court following his conviction of a crime for which this penalty is provided by law.*

(2) Deprivation of life shall not be regarded as inflicted in contravention of this Article when it results from the use of force which is no more than absolutely necessary:

(a) in defence of any person from unlawful violence; (b) in order to effect a lawful arrest or to prevent the escape of a person lawfully detained; (c) in action lawfully taken for the purpose of quelling a riot or insurrection.

Force used must be both necessary and proportionate.

PSNI advice on how ECHR Article 2 applies to taser use

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