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Friday, 1 March, 2002, 17:58 GMT
Do you support the use of baton guns by police?
Armed officer
In what is believed to be the first incident of its kind on the UK mainland, a north Wales man has been shot in the stomach with a plastic bullet.

The baton gun was fired after officers were called to a house in Colwyn Bay on Wednesday night where a man was threatening to kill his children.

Click here to read the full story.

North Wales Police Deputy Chief Constable Bill Brereton said officers had decided between "the lesser of two evils".

Some argue that six months ago - before ministerial approval of plastic bullets - the man is likely to have been killed by live ammunition. But others feel their use could mean the end of skilled negotiations.

The bullets have been in use in Northern Ireland since 1973 where they have killed 14 people.

Do you think plastic bullets help save lives?

This Talking Point is now closed. Read your comments below.

I would disagree that the use of such force should be to make a criminal think twice. Baton rounds are meant to be defensive, that idea effectively allows police officers to give out "lessons". It is however another method that can be resorted to to protect our police officers and too try and ensure no one is serioulsy hurt. Surely this is a step in the right direction.
Paul Boylin, England

I have been in law enforcement for 30 years and have used all types of authorized force on criminals. Giving officers additional means to handle the criminal element is the best way to make the criminal understand his behaviour. Using a bean bag or baton inflicts much pain on the receiving end. The criminal will think twice before trying the same tactic again. If the criminal element knows he will suffer for his illegal actions the safer it is for the law enforcement officer.
Pat Dailey, USA

Seems some of the contributors would rather see anyone but the instigator of violence killed or injured. Is it more palatable to have an innocent or a police officer die rather than have the perpetrator hurt? Your country's moral compass needs to be reset.
GD, Hong Kong

The fact that the public knows how law enforcement will respond to incidents, the safer it is for citizens and the officers. One of my constituents was shot. But anyone who threatens kids with a knife will get no sympathy from me if he ends up on the receiving end of a plastic bullet.
Alun Pugh, Welsh Assembly

These Baton guns seem to be an alternative to live rounds. Instead of firing plastic rounds, they fire palm sized "Bean Bags" with great success and no deaths to date. Maybe the UK government should look into this alternative. Maybe the UK government should look into this alternative. In riots where I live and they will not use "water canons" such as European countries. When a person decides he/she is going to abuse the rights of someone by committing an illegal act, they should also expect that they themselves are left open to abuse without recourse by his her victims. If you don¿t like it, don¿t do it. Why should people looking after us all be put in fatal danger?
Tim, USA

Whatever we call it, a baton round is still a bullet. Are we entering a new age of shoot first, ask questions later?

Chris, Australia

Interestingly, in the Arabian Gulf states there are much, much better manners amongst people and much less crime. Is it because the authorities actually punish criminals over there, instead of allowing namby-pamby liberals to bend their ears?
Simon Devine, United Kingdom

Whatever we call it, a baton round is still a bullet. Are we entering a new age of shoot first, ask questions later? Thousands of police officers have been confronted with aggressive citizens wielding knives. They didn't use bullets of whatever kind to calm or halt the situation, and I don't see why they should start now.
Chris, Australia (ex-UK)

I think a baton round is only effective for dispersing brawlers or domestic violence cases. It would be ridiculous to use the weapon against any other threat. I personally think the phaser would be a good non-lethal weapon and it is standard equipment for most PD's in the USA.
Dave, UK resident in US

I am opposed to the general equipping of police with potentially lethal weapons since there is too much danger of their abuse. I have been in situations where the refusal or inability of peaceful protesters to disperse resulted in baton charges. This is bad enough, but had the use of baton rounds been authorised there would have been many more injuries or even deaths. In a genuine riot situation such force might be necessary but my experience is that we cannot trust the police's discretion.
David Orton, UK

Other countries for instance like Japan and Korea who are using batons to contain people who break the law. In fact most countries use much more severe methods than we do. If you break the law you must accept the consequences.
Jill, UK

The use of force by police invariably, and justifiably, causes strong public debate and scrutiny. I am a police officer in Australia and I am trained and equipped with a variety of options when dealing with violent incidents. This includes a firearm. I can say with some degree of personal experience that certain violent incidents do require an immediate use of force by attending police... People who argue against the arming of police may wish to consider what options they would like if their child was about to perish at the hands of another person. Lethal force is only considered as an absolute last resort to save innocent lives.
Nick, Australia

I think the late American comedian Bill Hicks summed up the problem with policing in Britain. He said that all the British Bobby can do is shout "Stop.. or I'll shout stop again!"

Paul, Northern Ireland

The do-gooders of our society have removed all forms of punishment to the point that if a policeman tells somebody off too harshly they can be sued for it. This has given us a country where people do not care - they litter, steal, lie and cheat freely and with no fear of punishment. It is about time the criminal element was shown that they can be hurt if they do something wrong.
Ian Thomas, England

Plastic bullets? The hardened criminals in the UK must be laughing their socks off! Give them real guns - if only for a trial period and let's see the difference. Hong Kong police have always had guns during my 16 years here. Do I feel threatened? No. I feel safe knowing that there is a highly trained police force ready to come to my aid if I am ever unfortunate enough to need it.
Sue, UK in Hong Kong

I cannot believe this even warrants debate. The simple fact is that is people adhere to the rules of law, they will not become the subject of such action.
Ian Stacey, UK

Do I think plastic bullets save lives? It's a bit of a silly question, given that 17 people and not 14 as stated in your article have died as a result of there use. Then you realise they were used in the north of Ireland, and unfortunately we allowed our former governments to demonise the Irish and thus allow the murder children as young as nine years. Now we are faced with the same problem. There are real alternatives to plastic bullets - bean bags. The first victim of the use of these weapon here in Britain is lucky the next may not be, and we will be looking at the rate of police killings rising.
Terry Stewart, England

I think the late American comedian Bill Hicks summed up the problem with policing in Britain. He said that all the British Bobby can do is shout "Stop.. or I'll shout stop again!!" No such problem here in Northern Ireland of course. Although I guess that isn't really part of the above debate.
Paul, Northern Ireland

If those of you, that complain about how our law enforcement officials perform their duties, are unwilling to stand in their shoes for a week, then they should do themselves and the public the courtesy of coming up with viable alternatives, otherwise do all of us a favour and keep your mouths shut.
Jack Bell, Germany

From personal experience of using plastic bullet guns it is dangerous myth that these are non lethal weapons. They were originally designed for firing at a distant target in the open. To hear of one being used at close quarters in a domestic dispute is very worrying. If they come into come use people will start to be killed and that will damage the relationship between the public and police.
Ian Law, England

The arming of police forces is controversial but needs to be addressed. We can pretend that by not arming, society will remain civilised but that simply is not true. Law enforcers deserve to have the tools to do their job well. The modern criminal is well armed and, often, on drugs. As much as one abhors the maiming of an innocent bystander, I'd like to see more understanding about the constant danger these underpaid professionals face. Why is there less public outcry about law enforcement professionals being maimed or killed? The excuse "that's what they are paid to do" just doesn't cut it.
Di Stewart, USA

Tricky question. I've never liked giving the state too much power - even when we're told it's for our own good which is usually isn't. But if you're asking what should they fire - assuming they will fire something - then plastic is the lesser of the two evils.
Phil, UK

Violent criminals should be dealt with violently

Vikram Basu, USA

It's good to see these weapons being discussed by the British media 30 years after their introduction in the UK, but only after they are used on someone really British.
Chris, Ireland

Here in America, where it seems that the criminals run everything, I say that Britain should stop itself from going down this slippery slope of over extending "feelings" and "rights" to those in society that care nothing about decency. Violent criminals should be dealt with violently.
Vikram Basu, USA

Baton Guns for this country? Yes, I support the police to use this sort of weapon. It time to beat the hard Criminals out as its now out of hand.

Why shouldn't the police be given the means to deal with violent criminals? Certainly when it comes to riots, the police on the mainland have had their hands tied for years. My mind goes back to the Broadwater Farm Estate riots where a Pc was hacked to death by a riotous mob intent on murder and maiming. In these sorts of circumstances it is perfectly proper for officers to be able to fire plastic bullets to disperse the crowd rather than be forced to run for their lives and allow the mob to rule.
Bob, England

Outside of riot situations, the plastic bullet is a necessary intermediate for resolving potentially dangerous situations and saving lives

Oliver, England
Plastic bullets should be banned. Seventeen people in Northern Ireland have been killed, many of them children. Plastic bullets have a devastating physical effect on people with smaller bodies, like women and children. They are lethal weapons when fired at close range.
Nuala, US

While I support the police using whatever force necessary, have they tried the "bean-bag" round instead of the plastic baton round? It seems to be a less harmful, yet still disabling method. Some of the American police forces now prefer it to the plastic bullet.
David Ball, Wales

There are clearly going to be situations where we can't expect police simply to walk up to people with a baton. Equally, use of a firearm could rightly be condemned as excessive. Outside of riot situations, the plastic bullet is a necessary intermediate for resolving potentially dangerous situations and saving lives.
Oliver, England

I'm shortly to begin my Police training at Hendon and I have to say I am 100% behind the idea of police not only being given protection in the form of non-lethal weapons such as baton guns, but also being given the backing and support from the powers that be to use them. This man had been threatening to stab his children, never mind the officers on the scene. When he uttered those words his human rights left the building. While we should think twice before lowering ourselves to his level by shooting him dead, action needed to be taken and from reading the report it appears the correct course of action was taken, the situation was calmed and lives were saved.
SY, England

all have the potential to kill but its an acceptable risk compared to the risk of inaction leading to the death of innocents

Mark L, Wales

If violent behaviour could be stopped with the wave of some magic wand we wouldn't need such devices as baton rounds. However, no such wand exists and so the alternative is stun guns, gas, pepper sprays etc. They all have the potential to kill but its an acceptable risk compared to the risk of inaction leading to the death of innocents. Besides it isn't right to expect police to risk their own lives anymore than they absolutely have to.
Mark L, Wales

Today's society has become so violent over the most minor of details, that equipping police with non-lethal weapons is the only way to stop criminals. Although saying that, it would be nice of the government to actually look at the law and stop mollycoddling the criminals and do something for the victims.
Clair Willsohn, UK

I'd much the police fire baton rounds than metal ones. The person on the receiving end may still get hurt but it is far less likely to be fatal, allowing normal prosecution to follow. In addition, the trauma for the policeman will be less than if a suspect (or bystander) was shot with a regular weapon.
Frank, England

The police are up against it as it is. They are undermanned and are constantly reformed by bureaucrats. At the end of the day, the lives of innocent members of the public and police officers are far more important than those of criminals, so I support the use of this weapon, or indeed live ammunition.
Craig Ritchie, UK

Plastic bullets? Baton gun? They are just words to please the public. Israelis are using it at point blank range with fatal results for so long, let's not start that here.

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See also:

02 Aug 01 | Northern Ireland
The trouble with plastic bullets
02 Apr 01 | Northern Ireland
'Less lethal' police baton round
18 Jul 01 | Northern Ireland
Dispute over plastic bullets use
07 Apr 01 | Northern Ireland
Criticism over new baton rounds
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