Taser under fire over increase in use

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Human rights campaigners have called on the Government to review its guidance on Taser use after figures showed police fired the weapons more than 1,500 times last year – an increase of 70 per cent on the previous 12 months.

One of Britain’s largest forces, Greater Manchester, fired Tasers almost three times more in 2010-11 than the previous year, according to figures compiled by Channel 4 News.

Smaller constabularies also recorded large increases, including Suffolk, which discharged the weapons 18 times in 2010-11 but had only used them twice in the preceding six years.

Taser use was found to vary widely from force to force.

West Yorkshire officers fired Tasers 271 times in the 18 months to October, while South Yorkshire officers discharged theirs on only 39 occasions.

Figures were unavailable for the region’s other two forces, North Yorkshire and Humberside.

A spokesman for Amnesty International, which claims Tasers have been responsible for at least 50 deaths in the US, said that the figures were “alarming”.

“There is a clear disparity between forces’ use of Taser and that points to the need for greater clarity when these potentially lethal weapons should be used,” the spokesman added.

“Amnesty calls on the Home Office to thoroughly review these guidelines and put in place some strict standards.”

Assistant Chief Constable Simon Chesterman, of the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO), said each use of Tasers had to be reported to the Home Office to allow monitoring of their use.

“Police officers can only use as much force as is reasonable in the circumstances and officers deploying Taser must justify its use,” he said.

“Taser has been shown to be an effective tactical option for use against individuals who are offering such violence that force is necessary to protect the public, police officers or the individual themselves.”