Six-fold rise in stun gun smuggling

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The Independent Online

Homeowners are buying illegal stun guns abroad and smuggling them into Britain to protect themselves from criminals, according to police and customs officers.

Homeowners are buying illegal stun guns abroad and smuggling them into Britain to protect themselves from criminals, according to police and customs officers.

New figures show there has been nearly a six-fold increase in the number of these weapons being seized at ports and airports.

Last year, customs officers intercepted 672 stun guns, which can paralyse people with a 50,000-volt shock, compared with 120 eight years ago.

The National Criminal Intelligence Service, which is planning to launch an investigation into stun gun use, said this rise could partly be attributed to evidence that ordinary people and businessmen were buying them in France and Thailand, where they are legal, and bringing them back to the UK.

Customs said the weapons, which are prohibited in Britain under the Firearms Act, are also being smuggled in with other self-defence products, such as CS gas.

A senior customs source told this paper: "[Stun guns] are coming in through the internet or because people order them through magazines."

In January this year, a 38-year-old man was given a suspended jail sentence at Bristol Crown Court for importing enough components to make 100 stun guns. Jonathon Hart was stopped at Birmingham International Airport by customs officers as he tried to smuggle stun gun parts into the UK from Thailand. He said he intended to sell on the guns for up to £30 each.

Stun guns deliver a painful shock from two darts mounted on coiled wires. Human rights groups have raised concerns about the safety of electric-shock devices.

US research has shown that the guns can cause serious injury or death to people with heart problems.