Tasers use compressed air to fire two darts that trail electric cable back to the handset and release an electric charge (up to millions of volts) causing the victim to suffer temporary paralysis, which can lead to complications and death especially in physically vulnerable individuals. They are prohibited, and carry a five-year minimum prison sentence for their possession except in 'exceptional circumstances'. Taser guns look like pistols but are often disguised as other items e.g. mobile phones, lighters, torches.
Police use of Tasers (firing 50,000 volts) was approved in 2004 and has been increasing.
IDENTIFICATION Because imitation guns look like real guns it can be impossible to tell without close examination if a gun being brandished during an incident is a Taser or other similar looking handgun, airgun, airsoft, replica, BB or toy gun. Victims of armed crime are traumatised and not surprisingly unable to identify the gun being used to assault them. Media reporting is unreliable and unless guns are fired or recovered and can be authenticated they are categorised as ‘unidentified’. Many press reports which refer to ‘handguns’ are likely to involve imitations and other non-licensed guns which look like handguns.
1. TASERS – FATALITIES
There have been several incidents where victims have died as a result of being shot by police Taser.
2. TASERS – POLICE - INAPPROPRIATE USE AND INADEQUATE TRAINING
Coroners and bereaved families have criticised the inadequacies of a three day training course undertaken by Police Officers being issued with Tasers. Several organisations are highly critical regarding the inappropriate use of Taser by Police on children, the elderly, and the mentally ill. The long term effects of Taser use on the young are unknown. Following several deaths and injuries several organisations are critical of the increasing use of Tasers.
A recent Freedom of Information request reported by the Daily and Sunday Express highlighted a significant increase in police Taser use on under-18s in the UK in the last calendar year.
In 2015, at least 331 children had Tasers drawn on them by police, a 24% increase on the 266 children targeted the previous year. The youngest child on whom police drew a Taser was nine, while children as young as 12 have been shot with the 50,000 volt weapons. As only 35 of the 43 police forces in England and Wales responded in full to the information request, the actual figures are expected to be somewhat higher.
The United Nations is expected to expect to call for a ban on Taser use against children in UK at an upcoming hearing and to reiterate the serious risk of physical and psychological harm the high-voltage weapons pose to vulnerable individuals such as children.
3. TASERS - VIOLENT CRIME
Tasers are used to enable crimes including armed robbery, domestic violence, drug related incidents and intimidation. Victims may fear they are about to die and the consequences can be traumatic and long lasting. Incidents can require police investigation, hospital treatment, court costs, insurance and repairs. Victims and families endure pain and suffering, time off work, loss of income and disruption to daily life. Taser gun crime is paid for by individuals the community and the taxpayer.
4. TASERS – MENTAL HEALTH, ALCOHOL AND SUBSTANCE ABUSE
Tasers are frequently recovered by police from individuals and from premises during investigations into drugs related and other criminal activities.
5. TASERS – DISGUISED AS MOBILE PHONES, LIGHTERS AND TORCHES
Tasers disguised as mobile phones lighters and torches have been recovered by police from individuals and from premises. There have been a number of prosecutions regarding individuals attempting to bring these guns into the UK in person or through the post. Taser gun crime is paid for by individuals, the community and the taxpayer.
6. TASERS - COST TO THE TAXPAYER
Incidents involving the use of Tasers/stun guns have cost implications for society and for individuals in terms of Police investigation, disruption to industry, commerce, transport, hospital treatment, and court costs, Victims and families endure pain and suffering, time off work, loss of income and disruption to daily life. Taser/stun gun crime is paid for by individuals, the community and the taxpayer.
See ‘Gun Law’ pages.