Warning on Police Use of Stun Guns After 74 Die
Scotsman/John Innes | November 30, 2004
THE use of stun guns by British police must remain tightly controlled after a report showed dozens have died from their use in North America, a human rights group has warned.
Amnesty International has published a study which claims that 74 people have been killed after US and Canadian police shot them with the Taser gun.
The organisation also called for a "rigorous, independent and impartial" study into the weapons, which deliver a 50,000-volt shock to disable suspects.
In September, the Home Secretary, David Blunkett, announced Tasers were to be authorised for police firearms officers across England and Wales, following a successful trial.
Amnesty said Tasers had been used in the US against unruly schoolchildren as young as nine; pregnant women, one of whom lost her baby shortly afterwards; unarmed, mentally- ill people; and those who simply ignored a police officer’s instructions.
Amnesty’s UK director, Kate Allen, said: "In some cases, simply walking away from a police officer has led to people getting a 50,000-volt electric shock. Is this a glimpse into the future of UK policing?
"With over 70 deaths following Taser use in the US, surely we must have a full inquiry into their effects before the government even considers any wider deployment on Britain’s streets.
"We want an assurance from the Home Office and police chiefs that Tasers will only be issued to trained firearms officers and kept locked in the firearms box. Tasers could kill, so they must be treated as lethal weapons."
Mr Blunkett has said scientific evaluations had shown the Taser guns had a "very low" risk of fatality.
Taser guns fire needle-tipped darts up to 21ft to deliver a disabling, high-voltage shock.
They were trialled after growing pressure for a less dangerous weapon in an effort to reduce the number of people shot dead by armed police.