Tasers judgment on hold

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The Police Minister has declined to give her view on Taser guns until trials of the weapons are completed.

The stun guns are due to be trialed in police districts in the Auckland and Wellington regions this month, despite opposition from civil liberties advocates who have formed a group -- Campaign Against the Taser (CATT).

Police can embark on trials without the approval of the minister, Annette King, and she said today she was waiting for the outcome of the trials before she formed a final opinion.

Her spokesman said she was concerned police had adequate protection without having to use firearms.

But the purpose of the trials was to see whether they could or should be used in New Zealand as they were in other countries.

Earlier this year police said the 50,000-volt shock delivered by the guns was very painful but not fatal.

In the United States, dozens of people have died after being hit with Tasers -- although the gun issued to American police is more powerful than the gun being trialled in New Zealand.

Medical opinion said the deaths were from other factors such as heart attacks in people who already had a pre-existing condition -- not directly from the Taser itself.

Ms King's comments followed an Auckland public meeting last night, organised by CATT and attended by about 100 people, calling on the Government to stop the police introducing Tasers.

Lawyer Marie Dyhrberg said the meeting, chaired by former governor-general Sir Paul Reeves, passed a number of resolutions which would be delivered to the Government.

"It can only be described as a weapon that is dangerous and has been responsible for causing or resulting in deaths in other countries," she said.

The group called for:
* the Government to halt the police proposals
* police instead to concentrate on traditional methods
* an independent inquiry be held before any Taser trial

Ms Dyhrberg said the resolutions would be delivered to Prime Minister Helen Clark, Police Minister Annette King and Police Commissioner Howard Broad.

Ms King's spokesman today said she had not yet received them.


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