VANCOUVER (Reuters) - A Canadian judge on Tuesday rejected Taser International Inc’s bid to quash the findings of a government inquiry that said stun guns could be lethal and which urged police to restrict their use.
The British Columbia Supreme Court dismissed Taser’s argument that safety concerns about the weapon expressed by the inquiry were unreasonable as well as the company’s assertion that it was treated unfairly in the lengthy inquiry.
“It is quite clear to me that there were presentations made to the (inquiry) commissioner by medical experts and others to the effect that such weapons can cause serious harm and even death in exceptional circumstances,” Judge Robert Sewell ruled.
The stun guns - which are also known as conducted energy weapons - are designed to incapacitate a target with a jolt of up to 50,000 volts of electricity. They are marketed as a nonlethal alternative to traditional firearms.
The weapon’s critics say the shock can cause the human heart to fail, and that medical issues have not been studied adequately.
The British Columbia provincial government launched the inquiry after the death of Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski at Vancouver airport in an incident in which police shot him with a stun gun several times.
Taser argued that the inquiry had not considered safety studies supplied by Arizona-headquartered company and said that the Taser weapons it manufactures had never caused any deaths. It complained the inquiry’s findings could cost it sales.
David Neave, a lawyer for Taser, said a decision would be made on whether to appeal the court’s ruling after it had been studied.
Sewell ruled Taser had been allowed to participate fully in the inquiry’s hearings, and that inquiry Commissioner Thomas Braidwood, a retired judge, had never accused the company of misconduct.
Sewell also questioned Taser’s claim that its sales had been hurt by the inquiry, noting Braidwood had recommended police be allowed to keep using stun guns while more independent medical studies were done.
Braidwood recommended police restrict their use of Tasers to cases of serious crime or to instances when the target posed a clear threat to the public. It also said police should avoid shooting the gun’s electric probes near a person’s heart.
Taser itself adopted some of Braidwood’s recommendations on the weapon’s use in a product safety note to customers, government lawyers argued during the trial.
Reporting Allan Dowd, editing by Peter Galloway