26 Apr 2013

IPCC investigates Taser fire death

Senior Home Affairs Correspondent

The Independent Police Complaints Commission launches an investigation into whether a police Taser used on a man doused in petrol ignited the flammable liquid, causing his death.

Andrew Pimlott and family

Thirty-two-year-old Andrew Pimlott, seen here with his two nieces, died on Tuesday from serious burns.

The incident occurred after two police officers were called to a house in Plymouth on Thurday 18 April, with a warning that a man was in the garden with a can of fuel.

Eyewitnesses reported hearing an explosion in the back garden, seeing a huge ball of flames, and officers using a hosepipe to try to put out the flames.

Clearly, there is also a risk of flammability where the subjects’ clothing is doused with other flammable liquids. Acpo guidelines

IPCC Commissioner Sarah Green said: “Our investigation will be looking at what information was known to the officers attending the scene; the officer’s rationale for discharging a Taser on a person known to be doused in flammable liquid; whether the discharge of the Taser caused the fuel to ignite; and we will look at training and policies.”

Specific ‘risk’ factors

The Taser is a pistol-shaped device that uses nitrogen to fire sharp darts connected to wires carrying 50,000 volts of electricity. Several thousand have been issued to police officers in the UK.

Channel 4 News has learnt that the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo) classes petrol as a “specific risk factor” when using Tasers.

Guidance published by Acpo on the operational deployment of Tasers states: “Clearly, there is also a risk of flammability where the subjects’ clothing is doused with other flammable liquids.

“These might include, but are not limited to, lighter fuel, petrol and strong alcoholic spirits.

“This heightened risk must be factored in when assessing the ‘appropriateness’ and ‘necessity’ of using a Taser.”

Past concerns

There have been concerns in the past that the weapons are being used disproportionately and inappropriately.

Last year a 59-year-old man suffering from Alzheimer’s was tasered in Lincolnshire and in Worcester a man with mental health issues was tasered before falling from a roof.

Devon and Cornwall Police has referred the latest incident to the IPCC which has now met with Mr Pimlott’s parents.

Tonight they described him as a fantastic son: “We will never forget you. Be in our heart forever and always, we send a million kisses up to heaven.”