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Officer who shocked autistic man with Taser eight times used 'unnecessary force'

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Heartbroken mother says her son 'did not die that day but in many ways has been taken from us'.

Michael Gilchrist: No longer able to communicate and largely verbally mute

Michael Gilchrist: No longer able to communicate and largely verbally mute

Date - 15th May 2019
By - Nick Hudson - Police Oracle

 

Police use of Taser and CS spray left an autistic man with life-changing injuries and “no longer able to communicate”, a court has been told.

Michael Gilchrist was Tasered a total of 10 times and his mother claims as a result of “coming into contact” with officers from Greater Manchester Police – her son has been “taken from us”.

High Court judge Mrs Justice O'Farrell ruled that one of the officers who deployed his Taser for a total of 72 seconds used "unnecessary, unreasonable and inappropriate" force.

Mr Gilchrist, 59, was shocked with the stun gun eight times by PC Samuel Schofield after officers were called to his home in Wythenshawe, Manchester in June 2014.

A neighbour had called the police after seeing him walking down the street wearing only his trousers, covered in blood.

Mr Gilchrist, who has autism spectrum disorder and is bi-polar, had cut his hands after becoming distressed and breaking two windows.

His family say he became catatonic after the incident and have sued the force for battery and negligence.

The man’s mother, Novlyn Graham, said: "Michael did not die that day, but in many ways, he has been taken from us, his family. He is no longer able to communicate and he is largely verbally mute.

"Michael had a quality of life before he came into contact with Greater Manchester Police and he has suffered life-changing injuries as a result of that contact.

"All we have ever wanted is answers and meaningful engagement with the police.

“Instead, we have been made to feel sub-human. The officers on the scene did not see beyond the colour of Michael's skin."

In a High Court judgment handed down in Manchester on Wednesday, Mrs Justice O'Farrell found that PC Schofield's deployment of Taser was "unnecessary, unreasonable and inappropriate".

One shock was given while he was already on the ground, despite there being enough officers present to physically restrain him, and the judge found this would have "inflicted unnecessary pain".

She said: "PC Schofield's use of Taser was not justified and the extent of the force used, namely eight cycles for a cumulative period of 72 seconds, was not justified.

"This deployment of Taser was unnecessary, unreasonable and inappropriate."

The incident unfolded when two officers came face to face with Mr Gilchrist in the early hours of June 6, 2014.

They said he appeared aggressive and were concerned that he may have attacked someone because of the blood.

CS spray was used twice by one constable, while his colleague PC Mark Farrell, used his Taser twice, but this had no effect.

PC Schofield then arrived, and discharged his Taser twice delivering eight shocks that in total lasted 72 seconds.

The seventh shock was delivered in the controversial drive-stun mode, when the Taser is pressed against the body, and the eighth while Mr Gilchrist was on the ground.

Official advice is not to use Taser after CS spray has been deployed because it may be flammable. It is also suggested that Taser should not be used if it has already proved ineffective.

Eventually Mr Gilchrist was physically restrained and taken to hospital.

His mother, Novlyn Graham, said: "Michael did not die that day, but in many ways, he has been taken from us, his family. He is no longer able to communicate and he is largely verbally mute.

"Michael had a quality of life before he came into contact with Greater Manchester Police and he has suffered life-changing injuries as a result of that contact.

"All we have ever wanted is answers and meaningful engagement with the police.

Instead, we have been made to feel sub-human. The officers on the scene did not see beyond the colour of Michael's skin."

The judge found that before the incident he had been "an active and sociable member of the local community" who worked as a gardener four days a week.

A force spokesman said the use of CS spray, initial two uses of Taser by PC Farrell and physical restraint of Mr Gilchrist were all proportionate.

He added: "Work is already under way within GMP to analyse the judge's findings and to determine whether these reveal opportunities for learning and training.

"GMP has supported and will continue to support the police officers and former police officers who appeared as witnesses for the chief constable at the preliminary trial.

"The civil claim is expected to continue to allow for the examination of medical causation and the assessment of loss and damage."

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