Police wield Tasers against children 140 times in a year despite threat of fatal health problems if they are shocked by devices
22:49 GMT, 23 December 2012
Police deploy Tasers against children more than 140 times a year, figures show.
Official guidelines warn of potentially fatal health problems if youths are hit by the 50,000-volt devices.
Despite this, use of the weapons in confrontations with under-18s rose by almost 600 per cent in three years.
Tasers, such as the one pictured, are deployed against children more than 140 times a year, figures show
Guidelines warn of potentially fatal health problems if youths are hit by the 50,000-volt devices, pictured, but their use in confrontations rose by almost 600 per cent in three years
Police wielded the stun-guns against children 21 times between April 2006 and April 2007 – but this figure rose to 144 between 2009 and 2010, the latest period for which figures are available.
Overall, the devices were used in almost 4,500 confrontations last year – more than ever before – with three people every day now shot by the weapons.
Spending on the stun-guns and their accessories has doubled to 1.2million, and police chiefs are considering whether to extend their availability.
However, yesterday a campaigner condemned the use of Tasers on children, and called for an outright ban on firing the devices at under-18s.
Sophie Khan from McMillan Williams Solicitors, who represents Taser victims, said: ‘Tasers can kill people. They should not be used against children and this should be prohibited by law. There is a high risk of cardiac arrest and long-term injuries resulting in children being shot by them.
‘The Home Office’s own guidelines say that there are higher risks against children getting cardiac arrests.’
The official police handbook warns that children ‘and adults of smaller stature’ face a ‘potentially greater risk from the cardiac effects of Taser currents’.
The manual does not elaborate, stating that not enough research has been conducted in the area – but critics claim those hit by stun-guns can suffer cardiac arrests, burns, and serious head wounds from falling.
Other reports claim that being hit by a Taser can exacerbate pre-existing heart conditions. The latest figures were released in response to a parliamentary question asked by Baroness Stern in the House of Lords.
Critics claim those hit by tasers can suffer cardiac arrests, burns, and serious head wounds from falling
They show that of the 144 occasions on which police deployed Tasers against children between 2009 and 2010, they fired their weapons 31 times, up from 11 in 2006-2007. On the other occasions, officers merely drew their weapons as a threat, or possibly got as far as taking aim.
On nine occasions, officers placed the weapon directly against a youth’s body and pressed the trigger. This practice is known as a drive-stun, and causes pain without incapacitating the target.
Debate continues over the merits of the controversial American-made weapons, which were introduced in the UK in 2004.
There are around 12,000 Tasers on the streets of Britain, mostly used by trained officers. The Police Federation, which represents the force’s junior ranks, wants the Government to spend millions to increase the number to 36,000 – enough for all officers on duty.
However, critics claim that increased availability could affect the ability to control Tasers’ use. Serious questions have been raised over the weapons, after they were used in incidents involving the mentally ill, elderly and vulnerable.
The Daily Mail highlighted one such case in October, concerning an officer who fired a Taser at a blind man after mistaking his white cane for a samurai sword.
A spokesman for Amnesty International, which has campaigned against the growing use of Tasers, said yesterday: ‘Amnesty recommends that the use of Tasers on children, pregnant women, elderly people, and people with heart disease should be avoided in all circumstances unless officers are faced with an immediate threat to life or serious injury which cannot be contained by less extreme options.’
A Home Office spokesman said: ‘We are committed to providing the police with the tools necessary to do their job safely and protect the public.
‘Tasers are only used by highly trained officers and only in situations where violence or threats of violence are so severe that officers need to protect themselves or others.’
This year the Mail revealed that a two-shot Taser could soon be in the hands of British officers. The weapon could be used to hit two targets, or offer a second chance of hitting a suspect without the need to reload.