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Tasers

Home Department written statement – made on 24th November 2008.

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Photo of Jacqui Smith Jacqui Smith Home Secretary

Each day police officers put themselves in danger to protect the public, so I am committed to providing the police with the tools they tell me they need to fight crime and keep the public and themselves safe. I am also proud that we have one of the few police services around the world that do not regularly carry firearms and I want to keep it that way.

Therefore I am today giving my agreement to allow chief officers of all forces in England and Wales, from 1 December 2008, to extend Taser use to specially trained units in accordance with Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) policy and guidance. The guidance sets out that Taser can only be used where officers would be facing violence or threats of violence of such severity that they would need to use force to protect the public, themselves and/or the subject(s).

I am also making funding available to forces to support the purchase of up to 10,000 Tasers. This will allow chief officers to take a decision on Taser deployment according to operational need, without being encumbered by financial restrictions.

Tasers are making a real difference on our streets, not only keeping the public safe but also protecting our police officers. Taser has been available to all authorised firearms officers since September 2004 as a less lethal alternative for use in situations where a firearms authority has been granted in accordance with criteria laid down in the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) "Manual of Guidance on Police Use of Firearms".

Since 20 July 2007 authorised firearms officers in England and Wales have also been able to use Taser in a wider set of circumstances. These officers are now able to deploy Taser in operations or incidents where the use of firearms is not authorised, but where they are facing violence or threats of violence of such severity that they would need to use force to protect the public, themselves or the subject.

In July 2007 I also gave my approval for a 12-month trial of the deployment of Taser by specially trained units, who are not firearms officers, in circumstances where officers were facing violence or threats of violence of such severity that they would need to use force to protect the public, themselves or the subject. The trial commenced on 1 September 2007 in 10 forces: Avon and Somerset, Devon and Cornwall, Gwent, Lincolnshire, Merseyside, Metropolitan Police Service, Northamptonshire, Northumbria, North Wales and West Yorkshire.

Independent medical advice was sought from the Defence Scientific Advisory Council (DSAC) Sub-Committee on the Medical Implications of Less Lethal Weapons (DOMILL) on the use of Taser in these extended circumstances. DOMILL has now provided a fifth statement on the medical implications of the use of Taser.

The DOMILL statement assesses the risk of death or serious injury from use of the M26 and X26 Tasers within ACPO guidance and policy as very low.

Having considered the latest DOMILL statement and reports on the trial from ACPO and the Home Office Scientific Development Branch which provide final figures on Taser use in the trial, I have given my agreement for further roll-out.

All Taser deployments will also continue to be monitored for assessment by DOMILL. We will continue to publish Taser usage figures on a regular basis.

I have placed a copy of the latest DOMILL statement, and the Home Office Scientific Development Branch trial evaluation in the Library of the House.

Annotations

Richard Taylor
Posted on 28 Nov 2008 1:53 am (Report this annotation)

A number of documents are referred to in this statement, some are available online:

*The "TASER Trial Evaluation 2008" from the Home Office Scientific Development Branch (HOSDB), which the statement says provides: "final figures on Taser use in the trial":
http://scienceandresearch.homeoffice.gov.uk/hosdb/publicatio...

* The Defence Scientific Advisory Council Sub committee on the Medical Implications of Less lethal Weapons (DOMILL)'s. Statement on the medical implications of M26 and X26 Taser use at incidents where firearms authority has not been granted; which was published before the trial:
http://police.homeoffice.gov.uk/publications/operational-pol...

*The DOMILL statement on a review of the first year of operational use of M26 and X26 Tasers by Specially Trained Units and Authorised Firearms Officers at incidents where firearms authority has not been granted. This document is dated the 7th November 2008 and was released on the day of the Home Secretary's statement.:
http://police.homeoffice.gov.uk/publications/operational-pol...

I believe the statement is misleading in that the Home Secretary stated: "The trial commenced on 1 September 2007 in 10 forces: Avon and Somerset, Devon and Cornwall, Gwent, Lincolnshire, Merseyside, Metropolitan Police Service, Northamptonshire, Northumbria, North Wales and West Yorkshire." The HOSDB report confirms that the trial did not start on that date in those forces. For example the Metropolitian Police trial started on the 10th of December 2007, meaning that at the time of the Home Secretary's statement it had not yet run for a year. I do not see how "final figures on Taser use in the trial" can be provided when the trial has not come to an end.

The Home Secretary's statement refers to "reports on the trial from ACPO", and the Home Office press release accompanying the statement ("http://press.homeoffice.gov.uk/press-releases/Funding-for-more-police-tasers) states: "The ACPO trial evaluation report can be found on the ACPO website". I have made a request for the ACPO report(s) via the whatdotheyknow website as at the time of writing they are not available online. (http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/taser_trial_evaluation...)

While not referred to in the statement The Independent Police Complaints Commission has published the results of its monitoring of the roll-out of Taser. (http://www.ipcc.gov.uk/taser_report_nov_08.pdf)

Within hours following the statement London's Metropolitan Police spurned the Home Secretary's offer of funding for TASERs for all front line response officers. The Metropolitan Police Authority decided not to extend TASER use to all front line response officers in London on the grounds that they may cause fear and damage public confidence. (http://www.taser.org.uk/taser/met-police-not-to-extend-taser...)

On the morning of this announcement, which was well trailed in advance, Home Officer Minister Alan Campbell was interviewed on the Today program, the item was introduced by saying TASERs will soon be a common sight on the streets. (http://www.taser.org.uk/taser/tasers-will-soon-be-a-common-s...)

I have written to my MP opposing arming more police with TASER, though I support police firearms units having access to TASER weapons which they can elect to use as an alternative to firearms. (http://www.taser.org.uk/letter-to-my-mp-opposing-arming-more...)