Upgraded Taser authorised for England and Wales police

image source, EPA
image captionThe X2 features a back-up cartridge and a "warning" mode

An upgraded Taser model is to be made available to police in England and Wales, the Home Office has announced.

The Taser X2 - featuring a second back-up cartridge if the first charge fails - will eventually replace the X26, which is no longer in production.

Policing minister Brandon Lewis said officers would have the "tools they need to do their job effectively".

But a lawyer specialising in Taser-related injuries said a public consultation should have taken place.

The X2 device is said by its manufactures to feature an improved laser-guided targeting system and mode that allows officers to activate a "warning arc deterrent" before deciding whether to fire.

It was authorised by the Home Office after a formal request from the National Police Chiefs Council.

Mr Lewis said there had been an "open and transparent procurement exercise to identify a replacement".

"The decision to authorise the Taser X2 follows stringent consideration of strategic, ethical, operational and societal issues," he added.

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

Taser use data

At least 19 people have died in England and Wales after police deployed the X26 since it was first introduced in 2004, including former Aston Villa footballer Dalian Atkinson in August last year.

However, according to a survey released by the Police Federation in December, the majority of the public supported the wider rollout of Tasers. The Ipsos MORI poll of 2,004 people suggested 71% of people thought it was acceptable for officers on patrol to carry the weapon.

image source, PA
image captionThe Taser X26 has been in use in England and Wales since 2004

The federation welcomed the approval of the X2 but chairman Steve White said: "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."

Sophie Khan, solicitor advocate at law firm Sophie Khan & Co, said a consultation would have allowed the public to have a say over a device that has become increasingly "contentious".

She said authorisation of the X2 meant there was a "grave risk" of more fatalities or serious injuries in future.

"The clear message from the Home Office and home secretary in authorising this is that they do not care about the safety of the public," she said.

The body advising the government on use of the X2, the Scientific Advisory Committee on the Medical Implications of Less-Lethal Weapons, has said its deployment must be reviewed until enough information is available "to provide confidence that the system performs in the manner anticipated".

Meanwhile, Home Secretary Amber Rudd said that, from next month, police forces will be required to collect and publish all information on Taser use.

Data to be published in July will include where the Taser was used, and the age and ethnicity of the people involved.

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

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