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Issue #1481      17 November 2010

WA rally against Taser use

A lunchtime rally organised by The Human Rights Alliance was held in Perth outside the Wesley Church on November 13, called for a ban on the use of Tasers by police and other law enforcement officials. Around 100 people attended.

The rally, which was chaired by the Aboriginal Party, was also supported by the Black Deaths in Custody Watch Committee, Refugee Rights Action Network and the Communist Party. The rally heard about the Tasering of an Aboriginal man Kevin Spratt in the East Perth Watch House on August 31, 2008.

Details of the incident in which Mr Spratt was Tasered 13 times while being surrounded by nine police officers only came to the Police Minister Rob Johnson’s attention in May 2010. A video of the brutal attack at the Watch House has been shown repeatedly on national television and around the world.

After Mr Spratt had been taken into the custody of the Department of Corrective Services he was Tasered a further five times – a video of this attack at the prison has not been released into the public domain.

The incident required Mr Spratt to be taken to hospital for treatment which required surgery.

Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal speakers addressed the rally. This included Dot Henry, a Noongar woman, who is Chair of the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Women’s Alliance and former candidate for the Aboriginal Party for the seat of Hasluck in the last federal election. Also addressing the rally were Marianne Mackay and Mr Spratt’s partner Tauyana – a Yamitji woman – who called for the banning of the use of Tasers and restraint measures to be used instead.

Ms Mackay added that with all the training and other hardware that they were issued, it should be possible to calm a person down and take them into custody if they have committed an offence or are suspected of committing an offence.

Mr Spratt’s partner added that in our supposedly humane society we condemn the use of cattle prods on livestock and yet the state continues to condone the use of Tasers.

Gerry Georgatos of the Human Rights Alliance spoke next about the Corruption and Crime Commission report on Taser use which made 10 recommendations of which six were rejected and two were partly rejected by the Police Commissioner.

Two police have been fined over the incident since inquiries were undertaken. However, the Police Commissioner and Police Union continue to argue for the right to use Tasers, citing the increased prevalence of drug and alcohol induced violent behaviour as the pretext to discharge the high levels of electricity onto people who are disorderly rather than try to reason with or restrain them first.

The rally called on the government to investigate and charge those complicit in the barbaric torture of Mr Spratt and to hold a comprehensive public inquiry into police use of Tasers with a view to their possible banning, which has occurred in Iceland, Sweden, Kenya and elsewhere.  

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