Lancashire police taser a blind man: he's lucky to be alive. Others will not be so fortunate. - Spectator Blogs

18 October 2012

How hard can it be to tell the difference between a samurai sword and a white cane? Relatedly, how difficult is to be accepted as the kind of person qualified to serve as a member of the Lancashire police?

The news that a 61-year old blind man was tasered by police searching for a “suspect” seen carrying a samurai sword through the wild and mean streets of Chorley, Lancashire should surprise no-one. Colin Farmer, the victim of this assault, is fortunate to be alive. Granted, the police officer responsible for tasering him could not know Mr Farmer had twice suffered strokes but how hard can it really be to avoid tasering an old man?

Plenty hard, apparently. The specifics of this particular case are appalling but they should not astonish anyone. On the contrary, it is the entirely predictable consequence of arming the police with these weapons.


A Taser has already been implicated in at least one death in Britain while in the United States, where their use is, of course, much more common they have been linked, in one fashion or another, to no fewer than 500 deaths. Non-lethal force turns out to be surprisingly lethal.

Taser use in England increased by 45% last year and we may expect that figure to be repeated this year. And since the Police Federation want to treble the number of officers armed with these weapons it is only a matter of time before the police kill more people. It’s when not if.

The police, as usual, have apologised to Mr Farmer and promised an “urgent investigation” to “understand what lessons can be learned“. Bully for them. We should expect that the results of this investigation will be the usual nonsense focusing on training and guidelines and how tasers are deployed.

But the problem – and it is a problem – is not how tasers are used by the police but that they are used at all. It is a further example of the increasing paramilitarisation of the police and if the UK lags some long way behind the Americans in this regard we are nevertheless inching our way along the same, sorry, lethal road.

I hope Mr Farmer sues Lancashire police and that he takes them for as much as he can.

Previous taser-related commentary collated here. If readers with an interest in these matters felt like emailing me when they discover local examples of taser abuse and police brutality I’d be most grateful. (As always: email is

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  • David Webb

    As we have to pay for any compo to the blind man, who has been treated extremely badly – I would argue this is assault, battery and grievous bodily harm – we must try to prevent tapping the public purse from being an easy way of addressing such failures. We could ensure that the police involved all go to prison. We could sack the chief constable in the county and cancel his pension. That way the police would make damn sure not to do it again. As it is, the powers that be will be determined that there be no consequences for any of the personnel involved – and especially not the chief constable.

  • rndtechnologies786

    Nice thought.

  • bumbleismyname

    i am writting an article on this crime for a college assignment and i am trying to find out what the community thought about it but i havent really found anything apart they are shocked and cant belive he hasn’t been suspended

  • Rob

    Why in hell’s name is the officer concerned still on duty? This level is stupidity is breathtaking even by the abysmal standards of our rapidly declining police force, surely he should be dismissed with immediate effect?

  • Jackthesmilingblack

    Just when you think relations between public and police can’t possibly get any worse, suddenly they do.
    Zero cooperation; you saw nothing, you heard nothing, you know nothing, and it was two other blokes.

  • Eddie

    The police have always been thicko thugs who often go straight from being the playground bully to lording it over the general public on the street.
    And ‘Oop North’, the police are well-known as the second biggest load of thuggish, boarish, racist, sexist, homophobic thick little pigs who live in those parts; the biggest thuggish, boarish, racist, sexist, homophobic thickos were always to be found in the working men’s and labour clubs of course…
    Still, we’re better than the US – this poor bloke would’ve been shot there. In Canada too some people have died after being tasered – some poor Polish peasant who had arrived at an airport to the first time and was having a panic attack: tasered live on TV and killed. I know their workers force down the wages of the working classes, but even though, tasering is a tad extreme…

  • Eliza

    Disgusting not only did they taser the man they then knelt on him and stuck their knee in his back whilst the poor man was crying out ‘I’m blind’ and handcuffed him this was all done with a great deal of force, but even worse the policeman who did this HAS NOT BBEN SUSPENDED .

  • Gordon Roberts

    Guess whos picking up the bill for this sueing?

    • pepsymax

      Andrew Mitchell called two
      police officers “plebs”!! hardly crime of the century!!

      The police seemed to revel
      in the public sympathy surrounding this, it made front page news for
      days until Mr Mitchell felt he had no other choice but to resign.

      Will the officer
      responsible for tasering Mr Farmer, a blind disabled man, do the
      right thing and resign?

      I very much doubt it. This
      has now been referred to the IPCC and will be investigated by a bunch
      of ex police officers and then brushed under the carpet.

      Surprise surprise!! the
      officer will get to keep his job, not to mention his big fat pension
      and get away with the brutal treatment of another innocent victim.

      Get rid of these thugs in blue!!

  • Bob Hutton

    I’ve felt for some time that many coppers are just thugs in uniform throwing their weight about. I believe it was the Lancashire Police “service” that threatened a Christian cafe owner with arrest just because he was displaying verses from the New Testament to his customers.
    Unfortunately the saying “power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely” does not only apply to politicians.

  • Arthur Dent

    What if the police had been armed with guns instead of tasers? That would have been a lethal outcome.

  • Non-sense

    It’s not just the idiotic over-reaction of the police; what about the idiot who phoned them to say that someone was carrying a samurai sword, when it was clearly a white stick? The police should have established exactly what the situation was before acting. I would hope to see the “informant” named and shamed too, as well as a prosecution for the PC involved.


    Until some of the thuggish police that “patrol” our streets are brought to justice,the public will continue to distrust the yobs in blue who seem to be able to get away with murder.
    Look at the attitude of the police towards the killer of Ian Tomlinson, and the fact that the bully walked from court smiling.
    time for change

  • RodCl

    Poor guy said taht he heard someone shouting but couldn’t tell who it was addressed to because, obviously, he couldn’t look around and see. Also that he could hardly be accused of being in flight because he cant run.
    Seems a decent, reasonable chap but his most telling comment was that after he fell…… “I was then landed on by a thug in uniform”

  • Francis Coudrell

    Police officers seem to be devoid of common sense these days but if you have a degree in some ology or other like the majority of chief constables these days, then common sense is not a requirement.

  • In2minds

    ” it is only a matter of time before the police kill more people” then as Chris Mullin said they will defend the indefensible. They will get away with murder.

  • violentwilight

    When the two police officers were regretfully shot in Greater Manchester earlier this fall, the public reaction was wondering why police officers are not armed and insisted through a public outcry that they should be armed to their protection.
    Now, due to this mistake of the police forces, everyone changes their mind: why do police officers have to carry teasers and dangerous (although non-lethal) weapons.

    • Barry

      Which is why we can’t have government by referenda; the public is quite capable of holding two conflicting opinions at the same time.

      When we’re threatened, we want a police force, the rest of the time we want a police service. We’re not going to have the perfect police “service” when so many members of the general public are, frankly, disgusting.

      Sneering generalisations about the intelligence of police officers are a bit rich as well.

  • John Zorn

    Nothing efective will be done here. The cop will be let off and we wait for the next horror.

  • Gordon Roberts

    On very rare occasions our prime minister Mr Cameron becomes involved in some headlining issue, if there a few votes to be gained. Well I certainly think this is one for him to become involved in, when an innocent member of the public is subjected to such terrible treatment by the police.

  • Tascha Kuhnen

    GUARENTEED Russell Howard will show this on his Good News show tonight.

  • Gordon Roberts

    So some goverment minister used such nasty terminology to the lower ranks in the police, which they have never stopped complaining and whinning about, but just maybe they dont deserve any more? You have to earn respect, it is not gained by tasering blind disabled people.And maybe now the general public understand why your average bobby must NEVER be issued with a firearm. They have all seen to many Robo cop and Bruce Willis movies. The death of the Brazilian Electrician, and the killing of the newspaper sales person, are all issues of aggresive and unacceptable behavior towards innocent people, and those carrying out such dreadfull crimes behind the protection of a British police uniform should spend a long time in jail. This will be the only way the police will ever regain the tolerance and respect from the general public again is to start to be responsible for there actions.

  • Doobry

    I presume Mr Farmer will prosecute the Police Constable for Assault ?

  • Ibann

    So Andrew Mitchell is asked to resign for allegedly swearing or calling him a ‘pleb’ at a police officer by the Police Federation I wonder if any politicians will call for the officer to re-assigned/sacked for this horrendous attack. Or is swearing at a police officer a more heinous crime these days than tasering a blind man?

  • Lets Get Out of the EU

    Fantastic article AM. I couldn’t agree more with everything you wrote here. The use of these weapons is a disgrace. There is always a choice, a non-lethal way in dealing with resistant offenders – as there has always been. This is just another example of how badly it has all gotten in Britain since joining the EU (not that we actually did – as the public never agreed to it!). And what is the IQ requirement of a police officer these days? …70? Well that would answer what CmdKeen does for a living… (snigger)
    CmdKeen – you should be sorry, because you’re polluting this excellent article with half-thought up ‘claptrap’. Shake off your aggressive, ignorantly formed opinions, and go back to the beginning. Nobody is having a vote on what weapon they’d prefer to be assaulted with – innocent or guilty. This is the problem; people too easily buy into the whole ‘I have to choose A or B. Well that’s all I’ve been given.’ – try thinking outside the box. The police are meant to be trained to deal with these situations, not injure innocent people. The law is that all are innocent until proven guilty in a court of law by your peers. An officer’s duty is to apprehend in order to get that human to that court to stand trial, using only what force is necessary (which in this case clearly means there was no force necessary). This officer used extreme force when no force at all was required, so he should be tried like any other vigilante. No one is above the law – or so we’re told. …Let’s ask you a question, as you agree the police will always make mistakes and they should keep tasers. What weapon would you prefer the police killed your mum with – by accident, of course? They just happened to hit her in the wrong spot and it killed her. If not your mum, your dad? Or maybe your kids?
    Shorne – calling a 61 year old in this scenario is beneficial to the victim. Anyone with half a jelly brain can see that.

  • Baron

    does anyone know whether the tasering ahppened at night, during the day? Even if the former, the 61-year old was hit from behind, which seems rather cowardly, shouldn’t the police officer have shouted a warning?

    Baron’s judgment on the men on the beat in Britain, even today what with PC and stuff, is anything but positive, he hasn’t yet met a copper who would have given him any reason to change his mid, moreover, what astonishes the poorly educated Slav is their sense of humor as when he asks a patrolling pair (and he does it often) ‘have you already shot anyone today’?.

    • Mr Grumpy

      5.45 PM according to the Mail.

  • phil

    anyone with a brain could have seen that the man was blind with the white stick and some have a white ball on it. and you wish to arm the police full time think on

    • Peter Martin

      ‘anyone with a brain’- I think you may have prefaced and concluded your own statement with all necessary context. As to ‘lessons have again be learned’ the whole dual law thing evolves downhill further, does it not.

  • pauld

    If the unfortunate man had been carrying a chair leg the police would have shot him dead

    • Peter Martin

      Might have been worse; he could have been Brazilian too.

  • Kevin

    This argument might have played better before the recent murder of two WPCs in Manchester.

    A simpler thing would be to chalk this one up as yet another example to be thrown back at police who suggest that it is only when civilians defend themselves that “innocent people will get hurt”.

    • First L

      Everyone deplores the killing of two unarmed police officers by a thug, who, if we had any real justice, should be facing a noose. But…Cregan was armed with grenades and guns, and the two policewomen were tragically unaware they were approaching his lair. If guns are involved, obviously armed officers should attend, but the inability to distinguish a chair leg from a shotgun, or a white stick from a samurai sword, or someone walking away from a police line as a threat or a t shirt from a bomb belt is pure, simple incompetence. It’s not just the victim who is blind, maybe glasses should be regarded as standard police equipment. It is fair to say that there is a thuggish and even criminal element within our police forces. They are by no means ubiquitous, but they ought to be rooted out. But the Police Force, like the BBC, like Journalists, like Bankers, like Politicians – look after their own. I note how the benighted police federation don’t seem to be piping up about integrity here.

  • Jaguar

    It was not only the tasering; a policeman came down hard on his back and with a knee in Mr Farmer’s back got his hands out in front and handcuffed him. During that Mr Farmer was protesting his blindness. Surely anyone coming that close must have seen the white stick for what it was.
    I thought the normal procedure was to shout a warning first.

    • John Zorn

      No Jaguar, and when the rozzers come for you you’ll be quickly disabused of your faith in the British bobby. And have the wounds to prove it.

  • herrmann

    I’m amazed that the officer concerned was not instantly suspended. Not publicly named – ok; but not suspended – unbelievable.

  • Gavin

    I see a lot of American cop reality shows on TV and these guys will taser you for giving them a smile! No joke, they’re a law onto themselves and it looks like the British plod is following suit. I personally think that cops here are mollycoddled and spoilt rotten by our law makers. Every now and again they should to be reminded that they serve us, not we them.

  • Joe Wilson

    Good job he wasn’t carrying a chair leg.

    • Mr Mole

      Indeed. But really, we are being too hard on the police here – I mean, we all make mistakes, and one’s eyesight does get worse as one grows older…
      I mean, I remember last year I went to post my Christmas cards in a post box, and kept pushing and pushing them into the slot – but none would go in. It was only when a kindly policeman passed by that I realised the post box I was attempting to my letters into was not in fact a post box, but a burka-clad Muslim woman, that I realise my error.
      But I mean, really – if these people dress up like Muslim post boxes then how can I be blamed for being mistaken?
      I then took the bus home (it was an odd bus, big and red but full of men in uniform and blue flashing lights and the word FIRE written everywhere – which was most odd) and booked an appointment with the opticians straight away.
      So you see (or don’t, as the case may be) those in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones, or taser people, or shoot them, or cover up incompetence by lying….
      Oh dear…
      Has anyone got a Werthers Original?

  • CmdKeen

    I’m sorry but this is claptrap. Would you prefer the individual was struck with a baton, or sprayed with CS? Both of which have a far longer lasting effect than Taser.
    Even pushing someone to the ground can kill them.

    Does the officer in question have serious questions to answer? Yes. Will screwups happen in the police? Yes. Doesn’t mean Taser needs to be banned though.

    Finally – What would you suggest the officers have done if they’d found the individual carrying a Samurai sword first? Ask politely?

    • Mr Grumpy

      “No disciplinary action is to be taken against the officer”. Serious questions, eh?

    • FlorianGeyer

      Dear CmdKeen,
      I would have hoped that the constable would have noticed the citizen using a white stick of a blind man to ‘slowly feel his way’ and passed him by.

      Dress a man or woman with a low IQ in a paramilitary uniform ,train them by rote and the result is an unimaginative plebeian thug in uniform.

      Ask politely ? Yes, that is what we ,the people, pay your wages for.
      I would agree that pushing someone to the ground can kill them ,as happened all too recently when a policeman did just that in London to another innocent senior citizen

  • Toffer99

    I presume the constable with such defective vision will now be retired, and given his own white stick as a leaving present?

  • Shorne

    Surely Mr. Farmer has suffered enough without a 38 year old journalist describing him as an ‘old man’ at 61.

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