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Last Updated: Wednesday, 16 May 2007, 12:24 GMT 13:24 UK
'I've been Tasered 200 times'
Peter Boatman
"You wouldn't call it pleasant", says Peter Boatman

Government plans to issue more police officers with Tasers have been criticised by human rights campaigners as dangerous.

But what does it actually feel like to be shot by a 50,000-volt weapon?

Like any good businessman, Peter Boatman believes he needs to personally sample his own product.

Unfortunately for the 54-year-old, this means being regularly paralysed with a high-tech stun gun.

Former police inspector Mr Boatman is operations director for Pro-tect Systems, which is licensed to sell Tasers to police forces and the military in the UK.

Having been shot over 200 times with the device - which disables suspects by sending an electric charge into them through needle-tipped darts - he is nonchalant about the experience.

The first thing you notice is the muscles... spasming
Peter Boatman

"It's a bit like lying in bed and feeling a cramp in your leg, but it covers your whole body.

"Certainly, it's uncomfortable, but no more painful than a cramp.

"You don't feel the probes going in. The first thing you notice is the muscles in between them spasming, and then the rest of your body seizes up.

"As soon as the electricity is switched off, you don't feel anything anymore.

"You wouldn't call it pleasant, but I'd rather be Tasered than hit with a truncheon or bitten by a police dog."

'Intolerable pain'

Britain's police forces are increasingly turning to Tasers to disable suspects.

Around 3,000 have been issued to specially-trained officers since they were introduced to the UK four years ago, and Home Secretary John Reid has said he wants to see them issued to more officers.

Each Taser is shaped like a pistol and uses compressed air to fire two darts that trail electric cable back to the handset.

Taser stun gun
I'd rather be tasered than hit with a truncheon
Peter Boatman

When the darts hit their target, a five-second 50,000-volt charge flows down the cable, and the suspect's muscles contract uncontrollably.

Pro-tect insists Tasers are safe, and a sub-committee of Britain's Defence Scientific Advisory Council concluded in 2004 that the risk of them causing serious or fatal injuries was "very low".

But this view is fiercely disputed by Amnesty International, which says that 220 people have died in Canada and the US since 2001 after being Tasered.

It warns the devices cause "intolerable pain" and may worsen the risk of heart failure in people under the influence of drugs or with some health problems.

Kate Allen, Amnesty's UK director said: "Our message is simple - Tasers are potentially lethal and should be treated as such.

"We want comprehensive and independent testing to establish that they are safe before the government considers handing them out to every police officer."

In October last year, Brian Loan, 47, of County Durham, died after being shot by a Taser, but a post mortem examination found that he died of natural causes.

And in the meantime, it appears Peter Boatman's trade will continue to flourish.

Taser diagram

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Taser controversy refuses to die
30 Jun 05 |  Americas
Controls urged on 'lethal' Tasers
30 Nov 04 |  UK Politics

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