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Taser use questioned again as NPCC sets up research advisory panel

Campaigners have called for new guidance on the use of Tasers, with the focus on its deployment against under-18s and ethnic disproportionality

Children’s rights campaigners have called for clearer guidance on the use of Tasers on under-18s after figures revealed they had been used on 2,818 occasions against this age group by officers from all 43 forces. It is an increase from 1,700 the previous year.

Children’s Rights Alliance for England described the data as “alarming”.

Louise King, director of the Children’s Rights Alliance for England, said: “The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child that monitors the UK's child rights obligations has been very clear that Tasers should be prohibited on children, and yet their use continues to increase at an alarming rate year on year.

“Even if a Taser is not actually fired, being threatened with one is still extremely frightening for children.”

“At the very least, the government must urgently publish clear guidance and training for the police to ensure the use of these devices on under-18s is avoided unless absolutely necessary.”

Fresh concern from campaigners over the use of Tasers will add to pressure on forces to limit their use.

The National Police Chiefs’ Council and the College of Policing have already begun a joint Independent Review into Disproportionate Effects of Use of Taser after a summer of complaints from civil rights groups.

But its remit is focused on potential disproportionality against BAME people.

Home Office statistics for 2019/20 showed that black people were eight times more likely than White people to experience Taser being drawn on them or discharged. In 86% of all uses the Taser was not discharged..

The review has been established to commission and audit social research to explore the causes and consequences of racial disparities in the police use of Taser. Under the scrutiny of an Independent Research Advisory Panel, this work will provide an evidence base to identify and inform “meaningful policy changes” aimed at improving racial disproportionality.

Ahead of its launch in January, the NPCC announced it will be chaired by Junior Smart OBE and panel members will include academics, activists, those with lived experience and community leaders.

Mr Smart said: “Perhaps this year, more than any other, has shown how important it is for the police and minority communities to forge better relationships. But to get there we have to have meaningful and difficult conversations that explore the concerns that are raised time and time again.

“With our combined expertise we will be offering scrutiny, constructive criticism and challenge with the aim of identifying where and what reforms are needed to make a genuine improvement.”

Richard Bennett, uniformed policing lead for the College of Policing, said: “Policing is becoming ever more challenging so it is vital that our training and guidance is informed by the most up to date research.

“Taser can be an effective tool for officers to protect the public but the evidence base needs to be developed so the service can understand and issues around disproportionality and the College can ensure that our guidance and training support its proportionate use.”

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