Taser stun guns used 100 times in region

POLICE in East Anglia have used Taser “stun guns” almost 100 times in three years, new figures show.More than 80 criminals in the region have been struck by the weapon, which is designed to temporarily incapacitate an offender by delivering a strong electrical pulse, since they were introduced.

Danielle Nuttall

POLICE in East Anglia have used Taser “stun guns” almost 100 times in three years, new figures show.

More than 80 criminals in the region have been struck by the weapon, which is designed to temporarily incapacitate an offender by delivering a strong electrical pulse, since they were introduced.

But leading human rights organisation Amnesty International warned last night that Taser guns had been responsible for more than 200 deaths in the US and Canada - and said they should only be used in “limited” circumstances.

Taser “stun-guns” were introduced in April 2004 to provide police with another tool in dealing with violent criminals.

Most forces only allow trained firearms officers to discharge the weapon but a pilot is underway at 10 of the country's forces allowing other specially trained officers to use Tasers.

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Figures published by the Home Office show police in East Anglia have used Taser guns 97 times on a total of 85 criminals between April 2004 and November 30, 2008.

In Suffolk, Taser guns have been used 11 times, while in Essex they have been used 12 times and in Norfolk and Cambridgeshire, 11 and 25 times respectively.

A spokesman for Essex Police said: “The Taser is another less lethal option to us when we are confronted by potentially lethal violent individuals who pose a threat to officers.

“Alongside our other negotiating tactics such as the baton gun and CS Spray, Taser is an effective and efficient way to resolve a conflict without any long-term harmful effects on the subject.

“Officers now feel more reassured about their own safety when they know trained firearms officers are present to back them up with Taser. Officer safety is our priority just as public safety is too.”

A Suffolk police spokesman added: “In Suffolk, Taser is used by trained firearms officers only.

“Taser gives these officers an additional and effective less lethal option when faced with potentially dangerous situations helping them to keep both offenders and any vulnerable members of the public safe.”

But Amnesty International said it continued to be concerned about the use of Taser guns.

Spokeswoman Eulette Ewart said: “Our call still remains the same - Tasers should be used only in limited circumstances and only by specialist firearms officers who should also undergo a strict level of accountability when using it.

“People have died after being struck by a Taser. Since 2001, more than 250 people in the US and Canada have died after being shot by a Taser, which outlines the fact they are a very dangerous weapon and should be used with extreme care.

“Since September last year, there has been a pilot scheme at 10 police forces around the country where officers who are not firearms specialists can use them. They do not undergo the same vigorous training as firearms officers.

“We certainly call on the Home Office to reverse that decision.”

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