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Thursday, 18 October 2012

Since when was a white stick a dangerous weapon??

Colin Farmer has virtually no sight. This is a disability from which he suffers following two strokes. He walks with the aid of a white stick. On Friday last week he was walking through Chorley to meet some friends. It was daylight.

Because of his disability he walks at what he has described as a ‘snail’s pace.’

At the same time the local police had had a complaint that there was someone in Chorley carrying a sword.

One of the police officers somehow managed to mistake the unfortunate Mr Farmer for the villain. He also managed, in broad daylight, to mistake his white stick for a sword. Without making further inquiries he fired 50,000 volts at him with a Taser gun. Then to make things worse, he handcuffed his innocent victim once he was on the ground and, only then, noticed his mistake.

If this wasn’t so serious it would be comical. 

It is in fact rather terrifying to think that an innocent and disabled person can be severely assaulted without warning. There are guidelines for Taser use which include the need for a clear warning of what is going to happen if a person does not co-operate with the police. Mr. Farmer had no such warning -

"The Taser hit me in the back and it started sending all these thousands of volts through me and I was terrified. I mean I had two strokes already caused by stress. I dropped the stick involuntarily and I collapsed on the floor face down."

He was obviously posing no danger to anybody –

‘They could have walked past me, driven past me in a van or said 'drop your weapon’."

The police have apologised, although the officer himself remains on duty. Now, either he himself has very poor eyesight, or he is an aggressive officer who was chomping at the bit to use his Taser, but can the people of Chorley walk safely down their streets with such a person at large. 

If you or I had done that to an innocent blind person we would be sitting in a cell now!

Colin has a rock solid civil claim for damages against the local police service that is legally responsible for his actions. But we also need to have a full investigation into this. If police are going to carry lethal weapons we need to know that they will use them responsibly.

Thank goodness he wasn’t armed.

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