Sep 10 2013
The use of stun guns by police officers in England and Wales more than doubled over two years.
The use of Tasers rose from a combined 3,128 deployments in 2009 to 6,649 in 2010 and 7,877 in 2011, Home Office figures revealed.
However, the percentage of uses where the Taser does not make contact with the suspect, such as when it is drawn and aimed so a laser red dot is placed on the subject, has consistently remained between 72% and 75%.
In 2004, following a trial in five forces, it was agreed to allow chief officers of all police forces in England and Wales to make Taser available to authorised firearms officers.
There have been a number of controversial cases involving use of the stun guns - including blind pensioner Colin Farmer who was hit with the weapon in Chorley, Lancashire, when an officer mistook his white stick for a Samurai sword.
In 2009, 23.2% of Taser deployments involved the stun gun being fired, as opposed to just drawn, while this dropped to 20.4% in 2010 and then rose slightly to 20.8% in 2011.
Director of Amnesty International UK Kate Allen said only small numbers of officers should be trained in their use. She said: "The increasing roll-out of Tasers across the UK is a grave concern. Amnesty International is worried about every bobby on the beat having a Taser on their belt - it's not a modern truncheon."
Solicitor Jules Carey, who represents a number of clients taking legal action over stun gun use, said the range and volume of weapons available to police has risen consistently since 1995, despite falling crime.
He said: "It is not merely the size of the police arsenals that are of concern to the public, it's a general lack of confidence in police officers using the weapons appropriately, or having the judgment to assess what constitutes a proportionate response."
But President of the Police Superintendents' Association of England and Wales Irene Curtis said: "It is not a surprise that the number of deployments has increased because the number of people with access to Tasers has increased in that time. We support the roll-out of Tasers. We think it's a really useful tool that officers can use and can help reduce injuries to the public and to police officers."