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Stun guns for police 'can harm health'

Electric stun guns, expected to be used by police forces across Britain, could cause heart attacks and miscarriages, says a leading scientist.

Dr Harold Hillman, a retired biochemist from the University of Surrey, claims the guns, used in crowd control, could harm those with undetected heart defects. He did research for Amnesty International, which is calling for international suspension of all electric shock technology until further research on its impact.

"The stun gun is very harmful. The Home Office is forwarding plans to introduce these when not enough research has been done," he said.

Dr Hillman experimented on rats, and consulted witness accounts, autopsies after electric chair executions, and reports of inmates tortured or restrained with electrical devices. The studies concerned voltage and currents producing energy levels similar to those of the stun guns.

Stun guns, also known as tasers, cause incapacity by delivering a 30,000-volt electric shock. On firing, they release two 20ft coils of wire which strike the victim and deliver a shock. Three Whitehall departments, worried over the use of the guns for torture, have banned their export. But the Home Office's police scientific development branch has been assessing non-lethal armoury, including tasers.

Dr Brian Rappert, of the University of Nottingham, who has studied tasers, said: "Assessments, no matter how rigorous, cannot ... guarantee the acceptability of weapons in practice."