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New two-shot Taser authorised for police use

A new two-shot Taser capable of causing more pain to suspects has been authorised for use by police forces in England and Wales.

The Government said the device is not more powerful than those currently used by officers, but the new X2 can be fired twice if it misses or does not subdue the target on the first go.

A double-shot may increase the risk of muscle injury, the body advising the Government on their use said, but overall the medical effects of the new Taser are "in line with" those expected in other similar devices.

Deployment of the X2 should be continuously reviewed until enough information is available "to provide confidence that the system performs in the manner anticipated", the Scientific Advisory Committee on the Medical Implications of Less-Lethal Weapons added.

The new device was given the green light by the Home Office following calls from police to replace the current model.

Policing Minister Brandon Lewis said: "The Government is committed to giving the police the tools they need to do their job effectively - we must ensure our officers have access to the best, and most up-to-date technology available.

"Tasers are an important tactical option for the police, particularly in potentially violent situations where other tactics have been considered or failed."

The use of Tasers has proven controversial in the past.

Former footballer Dalian Atkinson died after being shot with a police Taser when officers were called to an incident in his home town of Telford, Shropshire, in August last year.

The ex-Aston Villa striker's family expressed frustration at not knowing "why such force was used" by police on the night of his death.

Human rights group Liberty criticised the introduction of the new model.

Bella Sankey, director of policy, said: "The use of Tasers has grown vastly since their introduction - but regulation remains woeful.

"Initially intended for firearms officers only, they're now available across the frontline - and there have been far too many examples of completely inappropriate use, with the BME (black and minority ethnic ) community and those with mental health conditions most affected."

The X2, replacing the current X26 Taser, is a "smart" device with improved features, according to managing director for Taser UK Matt Spencer.

He said: "The fully digital X2 is a tremendous improvement compared to the 2003 analogue-designed Taser X26 currently in use throughout the UK.

"With the X2's improved accuracy with its dual lasers, a built-in back-up cartridge and a powerful warning arc deterrent, the X2 allows police to de-escalate situations more easily."

The new device automatically records and stores more data, Mr Spencer said, and can be linked to footage from police body-worn cameras, making it "more accountable".

Alongside the announcement about the X2 the Government said police will, from next month, be required to collect and publish all information on Taser use.

Home Secretary Amber Rudd said: "We ask the police to put themselves in harm's way to defend us and the use of force is a vital part of their powers.

"But when the police take the difficult decision to deploy force it is also vital that the people they serve can scrutinise it.

"These new rules will introduce unprecedented transparency to this important subject and reinforce the proud British model of policing by consent."

The first data set, including where the Taser was used, and the age and ethnicity of the people involved, is expected to be published by forces in July.

The introduction of the new device has been welcomed by police, but calls have been made for it to be properly funded.

Steve White, chairman of the Police Federation of England and Wales, said: "This is very much a case of give with one hand and take with the other.

"Beyond simply giving it their seal of approval, the Government needs to offer financial support to allow forces to begin using the new device; otherwise it'll stay firmly on the shelf.

"You cannot put a price on safety."

Officers will be equipped with the new device "while maintaining our high standards of training and monitoring", said Lucy D'Orsi of the National Police Chiefs' Council.

She also welcomed increased transparency around Taser use.

"It is right that we are transparent about how and why they are used," she said. "The data collected will help us to make more informed decisions about training, tactics and equipment as well as demonstrate the really difficult situations officers are sometimes confronted with."

Allan Hogarth, Amnesty International UK's head of policy and government affairs, said: "The Taser X2 - like all Tasers - is a potentially lethal weapon which should be used only in a strictly limited set of circumstances, namely a threat to life or the risk of very serious injury.

"With growing numbers of police officers armed with Tasers, it is vital that officers get the same level of training as firearms officers.

"We're calling for police officers to undergo rigorous training which takes into account how to respond correctly.

"Amnesty remains concerned that police officers are still likely to cause serious harm using Tasers without appropriate training."

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