A probe has found that only a fraction of people zapped by Scarborough police with potentially deadly electric tasers were subsequently charged.
Our exclusive figures show that only two people have been charged by police after being stunned by the controversial devices, despite the force blasting thousands of volts through at least nine people since 2011.
And the figures come after it emerged Scarborough police were again forced to discharge the weapon, to shock a hostile man in Trafalgar Square who was stunned by police in broad daylight.
Scarborough police defended its use of the guns, which are known to have killed at least seven people nationally in the past decade, saying that they are a “valuable tool in bringing incidents to a safe conclusion”.
However opponents of the “stun gun”, which fires upwards of 50,000 volts into the torso through a pair of tiny darts, have accused the police of being too “trigger happy” with the weapon.
“The police are using them too quickly” said Sophie Khan, legal director of the anti-taser organisation Police Action Centre.
“It has become a weapon of first response, and it really shouldn’t be that way.”
Nationally, the police have come under fire in the past for the use of tasers.
This week, the Independent Police Complaints Commission expressed concerns after Home Office figures showed that police taser usage had more than doubled.
And in one infamous incident, a blind elderly man was tasered after his walking stick was mistaken for a martial arts weapon. The officer who stunned him was later cleared.
Although the full circumstances of the Scarborough incidents have not been disclosed by the police, Ms Khan added: “I have represented a lot of people who have been tasered who simply have not done anything wrong.”
Police say that just because a taser is fired, it doesn’t mean that the person has necessarily committed a crime.
Inspector Steve Breen, who heads North Yorkshire Police’s Firearms Support Unit, claims that there are reasons why somebody may be tasered by officers – not all of them illegal. “In many cases there is a mental health problem behind a violent incident,” said Inspector Breen.
“It could be that the person is threatening to harm themselves and in many cases a taser is used to protect a person from their own actions.
“In these cases, it is often not in the public interest to pursue criminal proceedings. It could also be that a criminal offence has not been committed.”
Figures obtained by The Scarborough News under the Freedom of Information Act show that one suspect was charged in 2011, when there were four taser discharges, and one the following year, when there were three.
The disclosure shows that a claim has also been made against North Yorkshire Police for injuries received as a result of being shocked by the weapon. However, North Yorkshire Police claims it holds no information on the outcome of the claim. The force also refused to disclose how many officers in Scarborough currently carry or have access to tasers, claiming the restriction of this information was in the “public interest”.
However, the force has released numbers which show that over the past 18 months in North Yorkshire, tasers have only been fired in just over a fifth of the 181 times that they have been drawn by specially trained officers.
“More often than not, the sight of the taser being drawn or aimed is enough to diffuse a situation,” said Inspector Breen.
“It’s an indication that officers are engaging with the subject and only fire the taser when all other options have not worked or not likely to.”
And further defending the use of the weapons, he added: “The nature of police work means that officers are regularly called to deal with violent and dangerous situations when there is a risk of harm to the subject, members of the public or the police themselves and a taser is a valuable tool to bring incidents to a safe conclusion.
“Taser use is subject to a high degree of oversight and scrutiny at all levels and all uses are recorded and reported to the Home Office. Our specially trained non-firearms officers receive the same training in the use of taser as Authorised Firearms Officers.”
The latest taser firing in Scarborough last week resulted in a 48-year-old man being bailed by police as they continue their investigations.
A police spokesperson said: “Police were called at around 1.10pm on September 3 to reports that a man was at a window in a property on Trafalgar Square, and was shouting and swearing at passers-by on the street.
“Police attended the incident and the man became aggressive towards police officers.
“To bring the incident to a safe and swift conclusion, a taser was used to enable officers to arrest the man.”
He was taken into police custody where he was questioned in relation to criminal damage to the door of the premises, possessing class A drugs, possessing a bladed article and assault, before being released on bail.