Australia: Outrage after police decision to Taser 95-year-old care home resident

Great grandmother Clare Nowland is now in a critical condition at hospital, ITV News' Sejal Karia reports

A 95-year-old woman with dementia has been left in a critical condition in Australia after police Tasered her at a care home.

Officers were called to Yallambee Lodge care home in Cooma, New South Wales, on Wednesday after receiving reports that Clare Nowland was carrying a serrated steak knife.

Upon arriving at the scene, police and paramedics spent a number of minutes negotiating with Ms Nowland, who has lived at the home for the past five years, to put the knife down.

When Ms Nowland approached the doorway, where police at this point were standing, a senior constable with 12 years of experience fired a Taser at her.

Ms Nowland is currently fighting for her life in hospital having suffered critical injuries, which police say were caused from her falling to the ground rather than directly from the Taser's electric shock.

Family members - including eight children and dozens of grandchildren and great-grandchildren - of Ms Nowland are taking turns to keep vigil by her bedside, according to Andrew Thaler, a local community advocate.

The incident has sparked debate across Australia over the decision to use such force on a vulnerable person as well as the safety of Tasers within policing.

Tasers are a less lethal option than firearms, but have occasionally proved more dangerous than other policing options.

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Police Assistant Commissioner Peter Cotter declined to say whether he thought excessive force had been used by the officer who fired the Taser at Ms Nowland.

"At the time she was Tasered, she was approaching police. But it is fair to say at a slow pace. She had a walking frame. But she had a knife. I can't take it any further as to what was going through anyone's mind," Commissioner Cotter told reporters.

He described video from the two police officers' body cameras of Ms Nowland being shot as "confronting footage".

Clare Nowland

However, he said the video was part of an internal police investigation and it would "not be in the public interest to be releasing that".

Commissioner Cotter also did not comment as to whether the officer who fired the Taser had been suspended, saying only he was "not in the workplace".

Nicole Lee, president of advocacy group People with Disability Australia, said she was shocked by the violence.

Ms Nowland has lived at Yallambee Lodge care home for the last five years. Credit: AP

"She's either one hell of an agile, fit, fast and intimidating 95-year-old woman, or there's a very poor lack of judgement on those police officers and there really needs to be some accountability on their side," she told the Australian Broadcasting Corp.

Snowy Monaro Regional Council, which operates Yallambee Lodge, said the council was "supporting our staff, residents, and families during this difficult time".

The group declined to offer any further comment due to the ongoing police investigation.

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