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Police watchdog calls for Taser guidance after inquest into fire death

By DPF Admin2nd October 2015August 6th, 2019Area Updates, Latest News, Northern Updates, Southern Updates

The police watchdog has called for more guidance to be given to officers in the use of Tasers after an inquest jury said the firing of one of the devices was the most likely cause of a man becoming engulfed in flames and suffering fatal burns.

A police constable discharged the 50,000-volt device at Andrew Pimlott during an incident at his parents’ home after he doused himself with petrol.

PC Peter Hodgkinson claimed that he fired the stun gun in an attempt to stop Pimlott harming himself because he held a lit match.

In a narrative conclusion, the jurors said they had decided “we don’t know” whether Pimlott was holding a flame or not, although he was in possession of matches. “We believe that the Taser was the most likely source of ignition,” they said, adding that they believed Hodgkinson’s actions were “in accordance” with his training.

Pimlott’s family expressed concern at the use of the device. In a statement their solicitor, Ali Cloak, said: “Andrew’s family have considerable concerns in respect of the use of the Taser which caused the fire and the burns from which Andrew died.

“Whilst Andrew was in some ways a troubled young man, he was a loving son, brother and uncle and he will be very much missed by his family.”

Following the conclusion of the inquest, it emerged that the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) had written to the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) recommending that officers are given more comprehensive guidance about the use of Tasers in the presence of flammable liquids.

“It is clear from this incident that Taser should only ever be considered for use in the presence of flammable substances as a last resort and after every other available option has been considered and discounted,” IPCC commissioner Tom Milsom said in his letter to Commander Neil Basu, police lead for Taser at the NPCC.

Basu replied that the use of Taser when a subject had doused themselves in petrol was exceptional. But he added that the NPCC did not agree with the idea that a Taser could only be used in such circumstances as a last resort.


The inquest was told that Pimlott, 32, who was unemployed and single, had a history of depression and alcohol problems. He had a difficult relationship with his parents and had been banned from their home by magistrates. He was also well known to police, having been arrested 12 times between August 2010 and his death in April 2013.

On the evening of the incident, his father, Kelvin Pimlott, spotted him in the garden with a petrol can and dialled 999, telling the operator he was worried he was going to set fire to the house.

Two officers, Hodgkinson and PC David Beer, responded. Hodgkinson said as soon as he stepped into the garden Pimlott emptied the jerry can over him. The officer said he saw that Pimlott had a match in his hand and fired his Taser.

Hodgkinson said he had felt that firing the Taser would stop Pimlott harming himself or others. He told the inquest at Plymouth coroner’s court that he had completed his three-day Taser training course in 2012 – the year before Pimlott’s death – but the fatal incident was the first time he had deployed the weapon.

The jury was told the device was discharged within 41 seconds of the officers reaching the scene. Matthew Barnes, a barrister representing the Pimlott family, suggested to the constable he had fired the device “almost instantaneously” when he saw the lit match. Hodgkinson insisted he had shouted a warning.

Relatives wept as they heard Pimlott had asked an ambulance technician to tell his family he loved them if he did not survive his injuries. He was rushed to hospital but died five days later.

Kelvin Pimlott explained that he thought his son was “calling his bluff” when he grabbed the jerry can. “I think it was a cry for help,” he said.

The case is one of a number of controversies involving the use of Tasers by police. One in 10 officers is now armed with a Taser.

Ch Supt Jim Nye of Devon and Cornwall police said: “Our condolences remain with the Pimlott family regarding the death of Andrew. The death of Andrew has had an impact not only on the family but also the officers involved.

“Any officer using Taser is subject to extensive training, and we should not under-estimate the challenging circumstances police officers face in their line of duty. Difficult decisions sometimes need to be made in highly pressured situations.”

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