Increasing use of Police Weapons on Children
Recently the Children's Rights Alliance for England (CRAE) relased shocking figures regarding the use of stun guns and spit hoods against under 18 year olds by police forces in England in their report: State of Children's Rights 2018 (http://www.crae.org.uk/publications-resources/state-of-childrens-rights-2018/).
The figures indicated that stun guns had been used on children 839 times between January and September 2018 and that spit hoods had been used on children 114 times in the same period. By comparison, throughout the previous year, in 2017, spit hoods had been used on children 47 times and stun guns had been used 879 times.
The College of Policing describes stun guns, or conducted energy devices, as 'a less lethal weapon system designed to temporarily incapacitate a subject through use of an electrical current which temporarily interferes with the body's neuromuscular system and produces a sensation of intense pain.' They are also sometimes known as tasers.
Stun guns can be used by police officers when they draw the device from the holster, 'spark' the device, aim it at someone using the red laser dot, or fire it at someone so that the probes are discharged into them or the device is held against them. If it is used in any of these ways, it constitutes a use of force by the officer.
Spit hoods are mesh hoods that are placed over an individual's head, covering their entire face. Their purpose is to stop the individual being able to spit at or bite another due to the mesh covering.
The use of these weapons by police officers has been a subject of some controversy because of the harmful, painful and degrading effects that they can have on people subjected to them.
The police have the power to use reasonable force in the execution of their lawful duties. However any time a police officer uses force, including with a stun gun or a spit hood, it must be justified. The police can only use force when the circumstances make it lawful, proportionate and necessary to do so. If it is not then the force used by the officer may be unlawful and may constitute an assault.
If you feel that you have been unlawfully assaulted by a police officer, it is often distressing and it can be difficult to know what you can do about it.
Our lawyers in the civil liberties department provide specialist advice and representation to people making a complaint about police officers who have abused their powers, inlcluding where significant force has been used on them.