South Wales police defend use of Taser on pregnant woman

Steven Morris and Vikram Dodd
·3-min read

A police force has defended the use of a Taser by one of its officers on a pregnant woman who lost her baby after the stun gun was fired at her.

Leanne Perrett, 35, was three months pregnant when a South Wales police officer who had been called to a fracas between her and her partner discharged the Taser.

Footage taken by an onlooker appeared to show the Taser barbs hitting Perrett in her front, causing her to turn and fall into the road face first.

No disciplinary action has been taken against the officer and South Wales police praised the way he had acted in a difficult situation.

The force expressed sympathy to Perrett but said there was no medical evidence to prove a link between the discharge of the Taser and the loss of the child.

Human rights groups expressed concern. Rosalind Comyn, the policy and campaigns manager of Liberty, said: “This tragic incident should make the government pause to consider how the rapidly increasing use of Tasers is putting people at risk of grave, life-altering or fatal injuries.

“The government pressed ahead with a huge increase in Tasers for frontline officers, ignoring the overwhelming evidence of the clear damage they can cause. This rollout must be reversed.”

Oliver Feeley-Sprague, Amnesty International UK’s policing and Taser expert, said: “While we can’t comment on the specifics of this case or the very distressing footage, it’s obviously the case that Tasers pose particular risks to pregnant women.

“The government’s own scientific medical safety advisers issued a warning years ago about the serious risk of falls caused by using a Taser on a woman who is pregnant, yet that warning is still not adequately reflected in guidance to officers.”

The former Met chief superintendent Dr Victor Olisa assessed the video at the Guardian’s request and said: “I have watched the video clip and it does look disturbing, but it appears to me that the officer is justified in the circumstances using his Taser against the woman. As one of the people watching (or the one possibly filming) the confrontation said: ‘She punched him first’, meaning the woman that was tasered punched the police officer first.

“I don’t think the officer could be criticised for using his taser to gain control of the situation.”

Olisa is a former head of diversity at the Met and former borough commander in Tottenham, with 35 years’ experience in policing and academic training as a criminologist.

The footage emerged when Perrett and her partner, Kyle Butts, were both given suspended sentences at Cardiff magistrates court over the incident for assaulting an emergency worker and using threatening words or behaviour to cause fear of violence.

The court was told that the officer, PC Matthew Hughes, was called to a fracas between Perry and Butts, 34, in Barry, south Wales, on 20 June.

As Hughes tried to restrain Butts, Perrett stormed towards them and appeared to throw a punch at the officer. Hughes fired his Taser at her.

Tom Trobe, defending, said Perrett was three months pregnant and lost her child. He told the court: “While there is no medical evidence to say that this was the direct cause, she lost the baby in the subsequent days.”

Perrett, of Llantwit Major, south Wales, was handed a 16-week suspended sentence. Butts, also of Llantwit Major, was given an eight-week suspended sentence.

The district judge Shoman Khan told the pair the police officer had been right to use his taser.

Speaking outside court, Perrett said she believed the Taser had caused her miscarriage.

In a statement, South Wales police said: “Suffering a miscarriage is an extremely traumatic experience and our sympathies are with anyone who loses a child in this way.

“The court recognised there was no medical evidence that this incident was the cause of the miscarriage.

“The single crewed officer who was involved in this incident dealt with an extremely difficult situation remarkably well. Faced with extreme provocation and violence, he was fearless and showed great tactical competence and skill.

“The Taser footage was reviewed by South Wales police with no issues identified.”