Taser use on young is on rise

Hinckley Times - - FRONT PAGE - CLAIRE MILLER hinck­ley­times@reach­plc.com

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.

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