Case of V v. The Czech Republic (Application no. 26074/18)

A selection of key paragraphs can be found below the judgment.



99. Indeed, even if it is conceded that the use of a taser against P.Z. did not amount to intrinsically lethal force, the Court considers that it was nonetheless likely to cause, or at least hasten, his death. In the Court’s view, although the police officers could not have known that P.Z. was suffering from a cardiac anomaly that made the use of a taser even more risky, the mere fact that he was a psychiatric patient should have prompted them to realise that not only was he in a vulnerable position (owing to his hospitalisation and the psychiatric episode from which he was suffering) but that he was a person with mental health issues and that it was very likely that he had received medication. The Court considers that in so far as P.Z. died while the police officers were attempting to immobilise him, it cannot be ruled out that the electrical shocks produced by the taser did indeed cause the cardiac arrhythmia that led to his death (see Scavuzzo-Hager and Others v. Switzerland, no. 41773/98, §§ 58 and 60, 7 February 2006, and Boukrourou and Others, cited above, § 60). In this context, the Court is struck by the fact that P.Z. was tasered three times in a very short lapse of time and that anxiolytic medication was administered to him afterwards, before he had been turned over onto his back (see paragraph 9 above) […].

104. The Court observes that, under the above-noted rules, police officers are authorised to use a taser where there is no other coercive measure capable of attaining the aim of the intervention, bearing in mind the principle of proportionality. It takes the view, however, that the above-noted framework is very general (see, mutatis mutandis, Tekin and Arslan, cited above, § 92) and does not reflect the particular nature of that device as an “intermediate weapon” (see paragraph 98 above) and the health risks associated with its use. In particular, there are no specific provisions concerning the use of a taser against persons with mental disorders or, more generally, against persons who have been hospitalised and who are likely to have been medicated, but who are not included among vulnerable persons specifically mentioned in section 58(1) of the Police Act. Nor does it appear that any internal regulation aimed at tackling this issue has been adopted by the Czech police authorities. Thus, according to the Public Defender of Rights, when intervening on the premises of healthcare facilities, police officers are bound only by the general statutory principle of proportionality, and not by any more specific guidelines (see paragraph 78 above) […].

109. The foregoing considerations are sufficient to enable the Court to conclude that the State failed to observe its primary duty to secure the right to life by putting in place an appropriate legal and administrative framework concerning, on the one hand, coordination between health professionals and the police when the latter’s intervention in medical establishments is unavoidable and, on the other hand, the possible health risks associated with use by the police of tasers in general and, in particular, against persons with mental disorders – notably in situations where it has not been established whether those persons have been medicated (and if so, how). In particular, the Court considers that the system in place did not afford to police officers clear guidelines on how to proceed when intervening against psychiatric patients such as P.Z., which may explain why the police officers in the instant case proceeded quite spontaneously, without first consulting the medical staff […].


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