The use of Tasers by police has increased by an average of 130%, it has been reported.
An investigation by Channel 4 News obtained figures from 40 of the 43 forces in England and Wales and found two-thirds of them had fired the weapon “significantly more” last year compared to the year before.
Their findings revealed that these 40 forces collectively fired Tasers 1,533 times last year, compared with 862 times in 2009 – an increase of 70%. Across the 40 forces, average usage increased by 130%.
The findings, accessed through Freedom of Information requests, come after Scotland Yard Commissioner Bernard Hogan-Howe called for police response officers to be routinely armed with Taser weapons last week.
Sophie Khan, a solicitor advocate at GT Stewart, who represents clients who claim they have been unfairly Tasered by police, told the programme: “It is very much the officer thinking this is something new they can use and without any kind of risk of consequences calculation by that officer just deploying it because he can and that’s the only thing he can do.”
Human rights campaigners say the guns can be lethal and should not be used in all but life-threatening situations.
In August two men lost their lives in separate Taser incidents. Dale Burns, 27, died after being Tasered several times at his flat in Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria, as officers tried to arrest him on suspicion of causing criminal damage.
Meanwhile Philip Hulmes, 53, died when he was Tasered after barricading himself in his house in Bolton, Greater Manchester. Both deaths are being investigated by the the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC).
According to figures compiled by Amnesty International, 334 people have died in America after being struck by the guns between 2001 and August 2008. Coroners have said the shocks caused or contributed to at least 50 of the deaths, according to the charity.