Law on Police Using Tasers in NSW: Indigenous Man Tasered in Face by Police

By Poppy Morandin and Jimmy Singh.

 

An Indigenous man has been tasered in the face at close range by an NSW Police Officer, during an arrest in Paddington.

Footage of the arrest has gone viral on social media. It shows Mr Lovelock on his knees with his hands stretched out. Officers then try to manoeuvre him to the ground, roughly pulling on his hoodie before swiftly resorting to tasering him repeatedly in the face, neck, and torso.

Lovelock confusedly asks the officers: “I’m not even fighting you, are you kidding me?”

Whilst indicating that he did initially attempt to flee from questioning, Lovelock’s girlfriend Sivan Dovale commented that “he wasn’t resisting as all as you can see.”

NSW Police have noted in a statement that officers were “conducting proactive patrols when they noticed a man and a woman walking on Oxford Street.”

“As officers approached, the pair split up and the 32-year-old man – who was carrying a bag – fled on foot,”

“Shortly after, the man was located in a common garden area at the back of units on Rose Terrace, near South Dowling Street. As police attempted to arrest him, a taser was deployed.”

Lovelock is now under police guard at St Vincent’s hospital, following the arrest.

Police have allegedly located a bag containing stolen items.

“The day-to-day violence Aboriginal people receive from police in this country on display again. I wonder if the NSW Police Commissioner will tell us these officers were just having a bad day?” said David Shoebridge, Greens MP.

Mr Shoebridge makes these comments in reference to a recent matter in which a 17-year-old Indigenous boy was arrested, with a NSW Police Officer using a controversial amount of force involving kicking the boy’s feet out from underneath him causing him to fall to the ground face first, sustaining cuts and bruises to his body.

Police Commissioner Mick Fuller defended the officer, remarking “you would have to say he has had a bad day.”

Tasers are a prohibited weapon under Schedule 1 of the Weapons Prohibition Act 1998 (NSW), referenced within Sections 18A and 18B which prohibits “a Taser gun or other similar anti-personnel conducted energy device” and “a cartridge or similar device that is designed to propel probes or prongs from a weapon referred to…”

 

Law on Possessing or Using a Taser in NSW

It is illegal to possess or use such a taser unless authorised to do so by a permit.

Possessing or using a taser gun in NSW attracts a maximum penalty of 14-years imprisonment, prescribed by section 7(1) of the Weapons Prohibition Act 1998 (NSW). If the charge is finalised on sentence in the local court, the local court is limited to imposing a maximum of 2-years jail.

Permits will usually only be issued for police or government reasons.

In NSW, tasers can be used by general duties police officers and specialist officers related to the Riot Squad, or Tactical Operations Unit. Police can only possess and use tasers for the purposes that’s considered in connection with their duty as a police officer.

If a police officer illegally uses a taser, he/she will be in breach of the criminal offence of possessing or using a taser under section 7(1) outlined earlier. This attracts heavy penalties with a criminal conviction and is taken very seriously by courts.

As a discharge of a taser is a use of force, it can only be used by police officers in accordance with the law under Part 18 of the Law Enforcement (Powers and Responsibilities) Act 2002.

Click here for an outline on the law on using and possessing pepper spray in NSW.

 

When can Police Use a Taser in NSW?

According to section 231 of the Law Enforcement (Powers and Responsibilities) Act 2002, a police officer may use such force as is reasonably necessary to make the arrest or to prevent the escape of the person after arrest, when exercising the power of arrest.

Section 230 of the same Act  allow police to use reasonably necessary force to exercise another relevant function within their powers, including a move on direction.

Use of a taser is a tactical option under NSW Police’s Tactical Options Model (TOM), designed to incapacitate.

The device delivers a strong electric current that causes involuntary muscle contractions.

Two small electrodes, which stay connected to the main unit via wires, are spurred by small compressed nitrogen charges into the individual struck.

According to NSW Police guidelines tasers may be discharged at the discretion of officers, following an assessment of the situation and where it is ‘reasonably necessary’. It gives officers the direction that tasers may be used to:

  • Protect human life
  • Protect yourself or others where violent confrontation or violent resistance is occurring or imminent
  • Protect an officer(s) in danger of being overpowered or to protect themselves or another person from the risk of actual bodily harm
  • Protection from animals

According to the NSW Ombudsman, tasers are disproportionately used against First Nations people making up 29.3% of taser subjects.

In 2008, the Ombudsman recommended that training processes be reviewed and for the NSW Police force to not extend taser use before doing so. This has been largely ignored.

Have a question? Call our criminal lawyers in Sydney today for a free consultation.

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