Anger over use of Tasers on mentally ill people

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Police forces have come under fire from mental health charities, after new figures revealed a wide use of Taser guns on people threatening to self-harm.

Dozens of incidents were recorded of Tasers being used by police south of the Border to stop people killing or harming themselves in the past three years.

Concerns have been voiced by Rethink Mental Illness, which said it was “inappropriate” to fire the weapons at people in mental distress, while the charity Mind called for greater training for officers dealing with vulnerable people.

It follows Freedom of Information requests to every police force in England and Wales on the use of Tasers on people who were not charged with an offence.

Of the 43 forces, 15 provided details of Tasers being fired at people who were not charged by police. They included girls as young as 17, a woman of 55 who lost consciousness after being shot following concerns for her safety and a 64-year-old who police feared would harm himself.

Paul Jenkins, chief executive of Rethink Mental Illness, said: “It is completely inappropriate for police to use a Taser gun on someone who is threatening self-harm.

“If someone is clearly in great mental distress, having a Taser gun used on them will seriously exacerbate their condition. People who take anti-psychotic medication may also be vulnerable to suffering a fatal injury if Tasered, as some medications greatly weaken the heart.

“If police are called out to a situation where someone has threatened to self-harm, there are other steps they can take without needing to resort to extreme force.”

Vicki Nash, from Mind, said: “A better understanding of mental health problems would allow police to recognise those experiencing a mental-health crisis, and de-escalate a situation before resorting to weapons such as Tasers.”