Our expert Public Law team secured a five-figure sum for an army veteran who was Tasered by police while suffering a flashback brought on by his post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The unprovoked attack caused his mental health to deteriorate further and left him unable to leave the house.
Michael* served in the army for 18 years and developed mental health issues, including PTSD, after being wounded by a hand grenade in Bosnia in 1991.
In May 2014, he was walking in Luton town centre with his partner Joanne* when he suffered a flashback and thought he was back in the army. He concealed himself in bushes near the hospital and Joanne, worried for his safety, called the police.
When the police arrived they told Michael he either needed to go to hospital or come with them to the station. He asked if he could go home but they refused. They phoned his mental health crisis team but there was no answer.
Michael and the officers were talking for nearly an hour before one of them, unprovoked, pulled his Taser out and fired. Michael passed out and collapsed to the floor.
Footage from officers’ body cameras would later show that Michael had asked the officer to put the gun down so they could talk, before being shot with the Taser electrodes.
Michael made a police complaint following this incident and Bedfordshire Police conducted an investigation – but his complaint was not upheld. This was despite a Taser expert reviewing the evidence and concluding that there was no change in the threat level to the public and Michael had done nothing to provoke the attack.
An expert in psychiatric trauma confirmed that the Taser attack had exacerbated Michael’s existing mental health issues.
After his complaint was dismissed, Michael got in touch with our Public Law team to help him bring a civil claim against Bedfordshire Police. Our specialist Actions Against the Police lawyers have extensive experience bringing successful claims against almost every major force across England and Wales and were able to secure a five figure settlement for Michael.
Despite his compensation, however, Michael did not receive an apology from the police. The incident has made his PTSD significantly worse and Joanne has had to take on the role of his full-time carer. Both feel that the police did not respond appropriately to someone that they knew was suffering from mental health issues.
“What I needed from the police was patience and understanding,” said Michael. “Instead they decided that they weren’t going to give me any more time even though I wanted to keep talking. The police need to be better trained and better supported by mental health services so they can respond appropriately to people in distress.”
Joanne said: “The officers knew that Michael was suffering from a flashback and had PTSD. It was extremely frightening as I never expected the officers to do that to someone clearly suffering from a mental illness and who wasn’t a threat to anyone.
“The whole thing has been a nightmare for us and has caused Michael’s mental health issues to deteriorate and become harder to control. I have now become a full-time carer to him and we know he will need specialist help.”
Gus Silverman, a specialist lawyer dealing with Taser claims, represented Michael. He said of the case:
“This appears to have been a case of officers using a Taser because they decided an hour was long enough for them to spend with Michael, as opposed to as a last resort. The footage from the police body cameras shows that before firing the Taser officers failed to take more than cursory steps to obtain the advice of mental health specialists, despite the fact that they were literally in the car park of a hospital. Most concerning of all is the use of a Taser on mentally ill individual who was asking officers to talk to him.
“Better training for front line officers, and better systems for securing rapid support from mental health services, are necessary to ensure that Michael’s experience is less likely to be repeated in future.”
Speaking about his ordeal, Michael said: “The psychological impact of being Tasered has been really hard to deal with. For a long time I was too terrified to leave my own home in case I saw the police again.
“I am pleased that the police have finally agreed to pay damages to reflect the harm they have done, but it is very difficult for me to understand why they haven’t apologised.”
If you or a loved one has been treated unfairly by the police, we may be able to help you bring a civil claim. Our Public Law team has an excellent track record bringing successful claims against almost every major police force in England and Wales – visit the team page to find out more, or call today on 0800 028 1943.
*Names have been changed to protect anonymity
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