Taser use by Welsh police forces rises 29%

  • Published
Taser stun gunImage source, PA Media
Image caption,
The Taser gun stuns its victim with a 50,000 volt charge

Tasers were used by police in Wales nearly a thousand times in the last year - up 29% on the previous year.

But in the vast majority of cases, the devices were aimed at a suspect without being fired.

On four occasions the weapons were deployed to deal with children under 11, in the year to March 2019.

The annual "use of force" figures also show spit and bite guards were used 34 times on under-18 year olds - and once on a child under 12.

Taser use in Wales. Total use by police forces.  Years ending in March.

In total, Tasers were deployed 989 times by police in Wales and discharged in 10% of cases (105 occasions).

In the previous 12 month period they were only discharged 59 times, meaning there has been a 43% increase in the number of times the weapon was fully discharged.

It comes at a time when violent crime recorded by all four forces across Wales is the highest since 2003.

The Home Office said: "Police officers put themselves in harm's way to protect us and it is vital we give them the powers and equipment they need to fight crime and stay safe on the job."

Image source, PA Media
Image caption,
Tasers were actually fired on 56 occasions in Wales in 2018-19

What is a taser?

A Taser gun uses compressed air to fire two darts that trail electric cable back to the handset.

When the darts strike, a five-second 50,000-volt charge is released down the cable, leading to a loss of voluntary muscle control and causing the subject to fall to the ground or freeze.

While the gun is designed to most effective when used at distance, it can be deployed at close quarters in what is known as an "angled drive stun".

This involves activating the loaded Taser close to the subject's body and then placing it on another part of their body.

It shows Tasers were used twice on children under 11 by both Dyfed-Powys and South Wales forces - while they were used on young people aged 11 to 17 on 55 occasions - 35 of these by South Wales Police.

It also shows handcuffs were used 61 times on children under 11 and more than 1,800 on those aged 11 to 17 - 42% in cases of non-compliant restraint.

South Wales' Police and Crime Commissioner Alun Michael said the use of a Taser had to be seen as a means of preventing injury - not just against police officers but also against members of the public and individuals being restrained.

"The use of Tasers is carefully controlled, and I have personally looked at the way in which Tasers are used by South Wales Police as part of my role in holding the chief constable to account for operational policing," he said.

"As a result I am very confident that the use of Tasers by our officers is proportionate and frequently prevents harm."

He said often, the presence of a Taser was enough to deter an offender.

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