LONDON (Reuters) - Police officers will be able to use Taser stun guns on members of the public in a wider range of circumstances from Friday, the Home Office said.
Currently the guns, which temporarily disable a suspect, can only by used by the 6,500 trained firearms officers in England and Wales when confronted by an armed person.
Under the new rules, firearms specialists will be able to use the 50,000 volt devices when officers are facing violence or threats of violence “of such severity that they would need to use force to protect the public or themselves”.
Additionally it was announced that specially-trained police units who are not firearms officers would also be deployed with Tasers. The year-long trial involving 10 forces will start in September.
“Police officers put themselves in harm’s way every day and I want them to have the equipment they need to protect themselves and the public,” said Tony McNulty, the Home Office minister for policing.
“Taser gives police an additional tactical option that is less lethal than conventional firearms and its use can help resolve incidents and limit the incidence of serious injury.”
Critics of Tasers say the devices have been linked to dozens of deaths in America and Canada.
Last October Amnesty International voiced concern after the death of Brian Loan, 47, from County Durham, who died a few days after a Taser was used on him. However a Home Office post-mortem concluded he had died of natural causes.