The Chief Constable of the PSNI, Hugh Orde, has been told to rethink plans to arm his force with 50,000-volt stun guns.
A report found that the PSNI has yet to develop a proper legal and human-rights policy over the use of the controversial Taser weapons, which have killed at least 15 people in the US and Canada,.
In a dossier drawn up for the Policing Board, experts said the PSNI proposals had not satisfied requirements to show situations where use of the guns would be immediately necessary to prevent firearms being drawn.
Human-rights experts Keir Starmer and Jane Gordon, who compiled the advisory paper, said Tasers should be treated as potentially lethal.
“We are concerned that none of the official bodies charged with considering the use of Taser have publicly addressed the legal and human-rights frameworks within which Taser can or should be used,” the report said.
Orde told the Policing Board last week that he had decided to equip specialist officers with the electroshock guns, and it was revealed that a number have already been purchased.
But after discussions with the body’s human-rights committee in Belfast yesterday, Orde has accepted the points raised in the report. It now appears unlikely that Tasers could be in use in the North of Ireland this year.
A PSNI spokesman said the introduction of Tasers remained an “operational decision” for Orde.
Sinn Féin Policing Board member Martina Anderson welcomed the fact that the PSNI had been “forced” to take on board concerns over the use of Tasers.
Speaking after a meeting of a Policing Board sub-committee, she said the evidence presented to the committee on the potential breach of human rights was “very strong and persuasive”.
“I welcome the fact that the PSNI have now been forced to take on board these human rights concerns.
“Sinn Féin welcomes the research into this issue and the commitment to human rights safeguards. It is only on this basis that we will move towards the objective of a routinely unarmed police force.”
Meanwhile, Sinn Féin is to ask the Belfast Assembly to support calls for pellet guns to be banned.
The move comes after it was revealed that 50 people were injured or threatened last year as a result of the weapons, which come in a number of forms including air guns, air pistols and ‘BB’ (ball bearing) guns.
As the assembly does not have the power to amend firearms legislation, Sinn Féin said it must first gain the support of Assembly members before writing to Northern Secretary Peter Hain to ask him to change the law.