25 August 2020
The UK Home Office has approved a new type of electroshock weapon for police forces in England and Wales, despite a scientific advisory committee conluding that it has a “consistently higher miss rate” (thus representing a greater risk to bystanders) and “may be more painful for the subject” than those currently in use. The news that English and Welsh police may now procure the 'Taser 7' comes a week after it was revealed that UK police forces disproportionately deploy the weapons against non-white children.
Police to be issued with ‘more painful and less accurate’ Tasers in England and Wales (The Independent, link):
"Police are to be issued with new Tasers despite tests finding they hit their targets less frequently than older models.
The Home Office claimed the new Taser 7 was “more accurate” on balance because its barbs fly faster and straighter at suspect, but concerns were raised in official assessments.
Tests found higher “miss rates” for the updated model than the two older versions currently used by British police, and warned that it would cause increased pain, a higher risk of injury, and a safety threat from flying probes.
Police chiefs across England and Wales will be able to procure the Taser 7 despite a warning over the use of stun guns from the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC).
In May, the watchdog said they were being used disproportionately against black men and mentally ill suspects, and a series of incidents where suspects were injured have sparked a backlash."
For further detail on the new weapons, see the documentation published by the Home Office:
On the discriminatory use of tasers when they are deployed on children, see: BAME children three times more likely to have a Taser weapon used on them by police (The Guardian, link):
"The proportion of BAME 11- to 17-year-olds having electronic stun guns used on them in comparison white children has been rising as growing numbers of officers are equipped with the weapons, responses to Freedom of Information requests show.
According to the figures, stun gun use by officers against 11- to 17-year-olds of all ethnicities is rising, with 61% more children facing them last year than in 2018 – while data from 2020 shows it is continuing to increase steeply.
Twenty-seven forces responded in full to the requests from the Guardian, covering 2017 to 2020, with another responding in part. Others rejected the requests on cost grounds, while some did not provide detailed data.
In 2020 the data, mostly up until the end of May, shows BAME children have had Taser weapons used against them more times than white children – 295 occasions against 271. The true figure accounting for all police forces is certain to be significantly higher."
As pointed out in both media reports referred to above, the 'Independent Office of Police Conduct' called in May for:
"...greater scrutiny on use of Taser following a series of incidents and increasing community concerns...
Director General Michael Lockwood said the IOPC was aware of concerns from a broad range of stakeholders about disproportionate use of Taser against black people and those with mental ill health."
The Home Office has branded the new weapons as providing greater capability for protection of police officers and the public: Priti Patel approves new Taser model to protect officers and the public (Home Office press release, link)
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