Page last updated at 14:30 GMT, Monday, 17 August 2009 15:30 UK

Police use of Tasers on increase

A police officer with a taser
Tasers are used by specially-trained police units

The number of times Tasers were used by police in England and Wales has risen, Home Office figures show.

The stun guns were used 250 times in the first quarter of 2009, up from 187 in the previous three months.

They were discharged 62 times between January and March, compared with 35 in the last three months of 2008.

In Northern Ireland, Tasers were used 51 times between January 2008 and April 2009 and were discharged on eight separate occasions.

The Home Office figures are the first published since all police forces in England and Wales were authorised to give Tasers to non-firearms officers who are specially-trained to use the devices.

This followed a 12-month trial in 10 forces last year.

Specially trained units have now used Tasers 1,098 times since the trial began in September 2007. They were discharged 190 times.

Tasers have helped defuse dangerous situations where people could have been seriously injured or even killed
David Hanson MP

Policing, Crime and Security Minister David Hanson MP said he was "determined to give police all the tools they need to crack down on violent crime".

He added: "Tasers are a vital tool for our frontline officers and that is why we allowed forces to issue them to specially-trained units.

"They are making a real difference on our streets and helping to keep both the public and our police officers safe.

"Tasers have helped defuse dangerous situations where people could have been seriously injured or even killed. And often just the threat of the device is enough.

"On many occasions, drawing or aiming a Taser has proved enough of a deterrent."

Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman Tom Brake said the devices should be "for a few specially trained officers, not standard issue".

He said: "The government has put large numbers of Tasers in the hands of police officers without any debate.

"Given the increase in Taser use and the fact they have killed hundreds of people in the United States, we must have a full public debate before we slip any further down the slope to fully armed US-style policing."

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