Police Taser stun gun use rises to 30 times a day

Police have defended the use of Taser stun guns after new figures revealed they had been used at a rate of 30 times a day across the country last year.

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They were used on 11,294 occassions in England and Wales in 2016 - up nine per cent on the previous 12 months.

Home Office figures show police most commonly used Tasers to “red-dot” a suspect – aiming and activating the devices without firing them – doing so 5,744 times. Officers fired Tasers 1,755 times, a rise of two per cent on last year.

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In Yorkshire they were used 994 times in the last 12 months - a rise of 23.8 per cent on the previous year. They were fired 221 times, up 24 per cent from 178,

Policing Minister Brandon Lewis said: “Taser is an important tactical option to help specially trained police officers resolve potentially violent situations safely.

“However, any use of force by the police must be lawful and proportionate.

“These statistics provide important insight into the police’s use of Taser.

“But we’re going even further, and from April 1 all officers will be recording who Taser and other types of force are being used on, the location and outcome of any incident, along with the ethnicity and age of those involved bringing unprecedented transparency to police use of force.”

Tasers, which deliver an electric shock to temporarily incapacitate a suspect, were introduced in Britain in 2003 as a less lethal means to deal with armed suspects.

However, concerns have been raised about the number of deaths and serious injuries connected with their use.

Surveys carried out by rank and file police associations have indicated there is strong support for the equipment to be issued to more frontline officers.

Che Donald, lead on Taser for the Police Federation of England and Wales, said: “There has been a fall in the number of times Taser was discharged, which demonstrates that each use of Taser is proportionate to the manner and threats faced by officers.

“More than 80 per cent of uses were non-discharges - with the number of red-dot uses making up more than half of all Taser usage.

“This shows that by virtue of possession of a Taser, police officers are gaining compliance of members of the public. This is further evidence that greater roll-out of Taser across the service would be beneficial.”

But Lucy Wake, Amnesty International UK’s government and political relations manager, described the figures as “alarming”.

She said Tasers “should only be used in a strictly limited set of circumstances, namely a threat to life or the risk of very serious injury”.

The Home Office figures show that 83 per cent of cases of Taser use last year were classed as non-discharge, including the devices being drawn and aimed and suspects “red-dotted”.