THE use of tasers by police in the area has continued to rise in recent years, the Advertiser can reveal.

Data recorded by Hampshire Constabulary and seen by the Advertiser shows a trend of increased taser usage since 2013.

Instances of a taser being discharged at a person have risen from 20 in 2013 to 82 in 2020.

However, 2020 did see two fewer taser discharges than 2019.

Discharging includes firing at a person with a live cartridge installed, or a taser being held against a person’s body and the trigger being pulled.

Meanwhile, in 2020, a taser was discharged on a person under 18 on three separate occasions, with total use - including tasers being drawn or aimed on an individual - also rising significantly since 2013.

Andover Advertiser: Source: Hampshire ConstabularySource: Hampshire Constabulary

In 2008, then Home Secretary Jacqui Smith announced that the use of tasers would be widened to front-line officers, having previously only been authorised for use for firearms officers.

Then, in March 2020, the government announced thousands more police officers would be equipped with a taser, with England and Wales receiving £6.7 million to purchase 8,155 devices.

All but two police forces (North Yorkshire and Staffordshire) in England and Wales submitted bids with the Home Office saying at the time: “All will receive the full amount of money they requested.”

No public consultation was held on this policy change, and all requests were granted including 67 new tasers to Hampshire Constabulary, government statistics show.

Speaking to the Gazette, Sophie Khan, president of the Police Action Centre - a not-for-profit organisation that provides free advice and legal representation for people who have suffered grievances from the police - said: “The issue of tasers is supplementary to the primary issue of over-zealous policing which too often resorts to violence.

"The funding for tasers has given a carte blanche to police officers. We were not consulted on the matter."

Ms Khan has been campaigning for their use to be "reined in".

She continued: "Of course, the use of taser is preferable to a gun, but it should still only be used in life threatening circumstances.”

According to Ms Khan, the tasers currently operated by police forces across the county are a new model which are much more powerful and are much more likely to harm those they are used on, especially elderly people and those with heart conditions.

Andover Advertiser: Source: Hampshire ConstabularySource: Hampshire Constabulary

The debate on tasers has been highlighted recently in trial of two police officers accused of manslaughter regarding the death of Dalian Atkinson, the former Aston Villa striker who died in a stand-off with West Mercia Police in 2016.

A court heard last week that the use of taser coupled with kicks to the head "changed [his] trajectory to one of dying".

John Apter, national chair of the Police Federation of England and Wales said of the policy announcement in 2020: “Taser is an essential piece of equipment which has saved many police officers from serious injury or worse.”

Andover Advertiser: Source: Hampshire ConstabularySource: Hampshire Constabulary

When asked if the rise in the number of taser discharges was symptomatic of a more combative police approach, a Hampshire Constabulary spokesperson said that officers "will only use a taser if there is an immediate risk to life or threat of serious injury to either a member of the public or themselves", as stipulated in their regulations, training and guidance.

They added: "In the vast majority of cases, a taser is used effectively as a deterrent, preventing conflict and protecting people's safety.

"Taser is only used by specifically trained officers, and we track and assess its use very carefully.

"The distribution of them is based on assessments of threat and risk at a local level, and is something that is kept under regular review."

The constabulary continued by stating that its "long-stated ambition" is that "anyone with a clear operational need" and the desire to be trained to use a taser, should be offered this.

"Across the Constabulary, we now have more than 500 Taser-trained officers," they said.