Taser use on young is on rise
USE of tasers against children potentially as young as 11 in Leicestershire soared last year.
There were 18 incidents where tasers were used against people in the 11 to 17 age group in Leicestershire in 2017.
This was up from just two in 2016, and was the highest number of uses in a single year in 10 years, according to figures exclusively revealed following a Freedom of Information request.
In 2008, Leicestershire Police used tasers against under 18s three times, and none at all in 2009.
In 2007/08, the force arrested 4,362 under 18s, while in 2016/17 they made 879 arrests of people in that age group.
Red-dotting, where the taser is deliberately aimed and then partially activated so that a laser red dot is placed onto the subject, was the most common usage last year, with 13 under 18s being red-dotted in 2017, up from one in 2016.
A taser was fired on one occasion.
There were at least 970 incidences of tasers being used against children across the UK in 2017, according to figures released by 44 out of 45 police forces.
This was a rise of 69% from 578 uses in 2016. Previously, taser usage on under 18s had averaged at around 500 uses per year between 2013 and 2015, after rising steadily since the tasers were first introduced in 2003.
Red-dotting was the most common usage in 2017, with 531 incidents, up 62% from 328 in 2016. Tasers were drawn on 249 occasions, up 50% from 166 in 2016.
Tasers were also more likely to be fired, up from 43 discharges in 2016 to 73 in 2017.
In an incident in Coventry last month, police fired a taser at a 17-year-old who had to be taken to hospital after suffering a cardiac arrest.
Four teenagers were arrested for violent disorder and assaulting a police officer as a result of the incident.
Metropolitan Police are the most likely to use tasers against children - on 399 occasions in 2017, up from 163 in 2016 - followed by West Midlands police, who used them 76 times in 2017.
Tasers were drawn against three under 10s in London last year. One of the three, a boy, had a bladed weapon, but the other two, a girl and a boy, were unarmed.
Police officers said they needed to use force to protect themselves, other officers and the public.
Oliver Sprague, Amnesty International UK’s Policing Expert, said: “The UN and other international bodies have said Tasers shouldn’t be used against children at all, so to see their use increasing in our country like this is really concerning.
“We accept that Tasers can play a part in policing where there’s a series a clear risk of death or serious injury to police officers or members of the public - but they should only be used extremely sparingly against adults, never mind children.
“What’s adding to our overall concern is the lack of consistency across police forces in how they document their use of Tasers. A lack of standardised and transparent reporting means we’re being given a shockingly inadequate account of the circumstances over when and why these potentially lethal weapons are being used.
“Meanwhile, despite all the warnings and several high-profile fatalities, it’s very worrying that Tasers are still being used by police officers after only three days’ training, whereas firearms officers undergo months of training and are constantly reassessed.
“We’d like to see enhanced training for Taser officers, and believe officers themselves want to see more training available to them as well as much clearer national guidance on the use of the weapon against vulnerable people like children or those with mental health issues.”
Taser use is recorded in seven categories, with the highest use in each incident recorded.
The highest use is fired, where the taser is fired with a live cartridge, followed by angled drive stun and drive stun, where the taser is held against a person’s body and fired, reddotting, arcing, which is the sparking of the taser without aiming or firing, aimed, and drawn.
The figure for Kent police is not included in the data, as the force returned figures for 2017/18 rather than 2017. They reported 20 uses of tasers in 2017/18, meaning the overall figure for the UK is likely higher.