Tasers used 300 times last year

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The Independent Online

Police gave electric shocks to nearly 300 members of the public last year, it was revealed yesterday.

Nearly 230 incidents involved the 50,000 volt Taser guns being used by authorised firearms officers, who have been allowed to carry the Taser weapons since 2004.

And in a new development, non-firearms officers in 10 police forces used the guns 63 times to deliver a shock in the first nine months of a pilot project.

The rate at which non-specialist officers are deploying the weapons is increasing as more police are trained to use them, Home Office figures showed today.

There were 35 shocks delivered in the first six months of the pilot, which began last September, and then 28 in the following three month period alone.

Police officers also drew or aimed the weapons an additional 850 times between July last year and the end of May.

A small number of incidents will have targeted animals such as dangerous dogs rather than humans.

The guns fire two electric barbs up to 35 feet and deliver a disabling shock, which human rights group Amnesty International claims can be fatal.

Since they were introduced in April 2004, Tasers have been used nearly 2,700 times by police in England and Wales.

Of the total, 949 incidents involved the weapon being discharged or used in a "drive stun", when it is pressed against a person and fired like a cattle prod.

Home Office minister Tony McNulty said: "Tasers are making a real difference on our streets, not only keeping the public safe but also protecting our police officers.

"Tasers have contributed to resolving incidents without injury where otherwise there would have been a real possibility of someone being seriously injured or killed.

"In a significant proportion of cases they have not needed to be fired - drawing or aiming the Taser has been enough of a deterrent."

He added: "I am committed to giving the police the tools they need to get crime off our streets."

The trial by non-firearms officers is being carried out by the Avon and Somerset, Devon and Cornwall, Gwent, Lincolnshire, Merseyside, Metropolitan, Northamptonshire, Northumbria, North Wales and West Yorkshire forces.

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