A schoolgirl, 12, is one of 24 young children to be hit with a full 50,000-volt
But at least 194 children aged 16 or under have been shocked with Tasers at lower levels in the last three years
Young people's charities and human rights organisations claim use of Tasers on children may cause heart problems later on
A 12-year-oldgirl was shot by police with a 50,000-volt Taser.
The girl, who was brandishing two knives and threatening to harm herself, was one of more than 20 children shot by officers using the electric stun guns, figures show.
Police said the Taser was used to detain the girl and ‘prevent serious harm to both her, the public and the officers’ after she began behaving ‘aggressively’ in St Helens, Merseyside, in July 2011.
Although the girl was unhurt in the incident there are fears that being hit with a Taser can increase the risk of fatal heart attacks.
The schoolgirl was one of more than 20 children stunned with the weapons in the past three years, according to figures obtained under the Freedom of Information Act.
They included six children aged 14, four aged 15 and 13 aged 16.
Scores of other children, some as young as 11, have been threatened with the weapons.
In total, at least 194 children aged 16 or under have had Tasers used on them in the past three years, according to figures uncovered by the investigative agency OpenWorld News.
Of these, at least 24 were actually shot by the Taser – a barb attached by a wire to deliver an electric shock of up to 50,000 volts.
Last night young people’s charities and human rights organisations said the use of Tasers on children was deeply worrying. The high-powered weapons should be fired on children only as a last resort, they said.
Amnesty International’s Oliver Sprague said: ‘In the United States more than 500 people have died after being shocked by a Taser and, in many instances, the coroner declared the Tasers a contributory factor.’
Tasers are increasingly being carried by British police after being introduced in 2004. Many officers on the beat can now carry the weapons after just a short training course.
At least six children were ‘drive-stunned’ by Tasers – where the electric device is held directly against the body.
Another 97 children were ‘red dotted’, with officers pointing the Taser at the child and pinpointing exactly where the barbs would hit their body with a red ‘sniper’ dot.
This included a 15-year-old targeted by Devon and Cornwall Police after he threw a glass at shop staff and took up a ‘fighting stance’ with his eyes ‘squinted’ as officers approached.
The use of the stun weapons against young children comes despite advice to the Home Office that Tasers are more likely to cause heart problems in children.
The advice, from independent scientific body Defence Sub-committee on the Medical Implications of Less-Lethal Weapons, was published in the Association of Chief Police Officers’ Taser guidelines.
It notes ‘children and adults of smaller stature as being at potentially greater risk from the cardiac effects of Taser currents than normal adults of average or larger stature’.
Penelope Gibbs, chairman of the Standing Committee for Youth Justice, a coalition of more than 25 voluntary bodies campaigning for youth justice reform, said the findings were ‘really shocking’.
‘The number of incidents indicate that the police are not using other techniques to calm potentially vulnerable or disturbed teenagers,’ she said.
A total of 27 forces provided responses on the use of Tasers against children during 2010, 2011 and 2012. But the true figure of Taser use on young children is likely to be much higher.
- A 14-year-old girl in Nottingham was accidentally shot as officers tried to arrest a suspect in the city.
- A 14-year-old burglary suspect armed with a screwdriver was shot in Gwent, south Wales.
- A 14-year-old was shot with Taser in Northumbria after the teen attacked another person with cosh - a truncheon-like weapon.
- A 14-year-old was shot by armed officers in Warwickshire who was alleged to have been armed with a knife and 'being racially abusive'.
- A 14-year-old boy was drive-stunned in York for resisting arrest.
- A 12-year-old girl armed with a knife was red-dotted in Ellesmere Port, Cheshire, by armed officers.
- A 15-year-old was shot in Frome, Somerset, after an alleged assault.
- A 15-year-old was Tasered in Nottinghamshire after apparently being violent towards an officer and carrying a knuckle duster.