THE mother of a young man who died after being tasered by police in Staffordshire as he suffered a mental health episode described the Cumbria police footage as 'disgusting.'

Germaine Phillips, 66, joined a campaign calling for police to stop using tasers on people who are in mental health crisis following the death of her son Adrian McDonald. The 34-year-old father-of-two died in 2014.

He had become intensely paranoid while at a birthday party after taking cocaine and was behaving erratically, barricading himself in a room. During the attempt to arrest him, he was repeatedly bitten by a police dog and tasered.

Police video footage showed him after officers moved him to a police van where he was detained. Slumped in the van's cage, and struggling to breathe, he was heard to say: “I can’t breathe” four times and then the word “Please.”

An officer replied with: “You can breathe because you’re talking; deep breaths.”

Shortly afterwards, he lost consciousness. Nine minutes went by before an ambulance was called. A pathologist later concluded he died from the effects of stress, being bitten and tasered, and cocaine toxicity.

'I can't believe what I've seen'

No substances were involved in the Cumbrian taser incident, but the suspect was also mentally unwell and suffering paranoia.

At the time of his arrest, the Cumbrian suspect believed the Devil was out to get him, said his lawyer Daniel Menell, but the man threw away his knife when he saw the police arrive because they made him 'feel safe'.

After watching the police video of the man being detained and tasered, Germaine said: “I’m so shocked; I can’t believe what I’ve seen.

News and Star: Germaine Phillips says she was disgusted by the way police treated the Cumbrian suspect.Germaine Phillips says she was disgusted by the way police treated the Cumbrian suspect. (Image: UGC)

“The police officers are the ones who are the aggressors; they’re very aggressive when they approach this young man.

"The young man appears was compliant and did not appear to be a threat to the officers. The police officers are shouting, using bad language, and the situation is very confusing.

“They were right on top of him; and there was no de-escalation whatsoever. As soon as they got out of the van, they were swearing, they were shouting. This poor fellow didn’t know what he was doing. He was terrified.

“I’m not surprised his dog bit one of the officers because they were attacking its master. That’s not the young man’s fault.”

'They should have found out what was happening'

Germaine said the conduct of the Cumbrian officers in the confrontation defied the guidance issued by the College of Policing, which suggests approaching a suspect “calmly, with an open, non-threatening stance, using a low, consistent voice, without shouting or using threatening language.”

She said: “They should have found out what was happening, never mind shouting and swearing. This young man was in his stocking feet. He thought the Devil was after him; after being tasered so many times, of course he was going to try to get away.

“The behaviour of these officers was disgusting.”

Working alongside Germaine in the campaign is Lisa Cole, whose brother Marc Cole, 30, a father of two, died in 2017 after he was tasered three times for a total of 43 seconds while in a mental health crisis and self-harming.

An inquest jury found he posed no threat to anybody and that he was not acting aggressively when he was tasered.

Lisa said: “Police officers have extensive training in how to handle people who are vulnerable but for some reason when they turn up to something like this that training goes out of the window; it’s like a pack mentality.

“Sometimes it’s much too easy when they have a taser in their hand to use it instead of doing what they’re trained to do – de-escalation.

“But police culture in the UK is that if the police are scrutinised in any way, they close ranks. It’s institutional defensiveness, so things don't move on. In Marc’s case, a prevention of future deaths was written to the College of Policing.

“It was rejected; and the Home Office rejected it. They said they didn’t feel their taser training fell short; they felt their police officers were well-trained. Yet there were specific issues around the repeated tasering of vulnerable people.

“It can cause cardiac arrest, brain injuries, broken bones, paralysis and all sorts of things. It’s the closing of ranks and institutional defensiveness prevents them from improving.”

The online campaign in which Germaine and Lisa are involved has garnered support from more than 70,000 people who want an end to the use of Tasers against people experiencing a mental health crisis.

They say Tasers can be "lethal weapons" and that they are used disproportionately against people experiencing mental distress.

The campaign's home page says of Lisa's brother: "Marc needed urgent medical assistance and a compassionate response. Instead Marc was repeatedly tasered by police when he was terrified and confused."

Following the inquest into Mr Cole's death, a coroner called for "a wholesale review of the effects of multiple taser activations" so that better training can be provided to UK police officers.

The petition about police taser use - entitled Ban Police use of Lethal Tasering of people in Mental Health Crisis - can be found by clicking on this link.

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