No halt to Taser roll-out

BY MIKE HOULAHAN
Last updated 05:00 21/05/2009

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The Government has no plans to halt issuing Tasers to police despite a United Nations warning that New Zealand may breach international obligations by approving the stun guns.

The UN Committee Against Torture yesterday issued its response to the report New Zealand presented to the Geneva-based committee this month. As part of international treaty obligations, New Zealand reports regularly to the UN on how it complies with requirements in this case, the elimination of torture.

The committee noted New Zealand's assurance that trained staff would use the Tasers in situations of imminent threat, but it remained "deeply concerned" over their introduction.

"The committee is concerned that the use of these weapons causes severe pain, constituting a form of torture, and that in some cases it may even cause death," it said.

"In addition, the committee is concerned at reports whereby during the trial period Tasers were predominantly used on Maori and youths."

Tasers were trialled in 2006-07 and approved for introduction by Commissioner Howard Broad last September.

Police Minister Judith Collins said yesterday that the Government supported the Taser's introduction.

She said the UN committee's concerns, raised previously, had been taken into account during the Taser trial. Safeguards, including the introduction of cameras on the weapon, had been added to prevent misuse.

"The Taser is not being deployed as an offensive weapon," she said . "It is to stop extremely violent offenders who are threatening the lives of individuals and the police.

"I would much rather have the police able to be armed with Tasers than firearms."

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