Devon and Cornwall Police Taser use nearly doubles

Image caption There are 480 officers trained to use Tasers, up from 150 before 2009

The number of times police have used Tasers in Devon and Cornwall has nearly doubled over a two-year period.

Figures obtained by the BBC through the Freedom of Information Act show the stun guns were used 34 times in 2010 and 65 times last year.

Human rights groups say they were being used too readily.

Devon and Cornwall police said the rise could be linked to the increased number of officers now trained to use Tasers.

Of the force's 3,200 officers, 480 are trained to use Tasers, up from 150 before 2009 and spending on the weapon rose from £33,470 in 2009 to £101,379 last year, according to an FoI request .

Nineteen of the 34 people that were shot with a Taser in 2010 were charged with an offence, and 37 of the 65 shot in 2011 were charged.

Eulette Ewart, from the human rights group Amnesty International, said Tasers should only be used in "limited circumstances " where there was a "serious threat to life or serious injury".

She said: "Given the increase, one must question whether the incidents in 2011 merited the need for a Taser to be drawn as opposed to 2010 when it was only drawn 34 times.

"We are not against Tasers but they are very dangerous and so they need to be used in a very limited set of circumstances."

The force's criteria for using Tasers states that they can be used if officers get permission from a senior officer and "in the course of their duty, may have to protect the public, themselves and /or the subject(s) at incidents of violence or threats of violence of such severity that they will need to use force".

Nigel Rabbits, chairman of the Devon and Cornwall branch of the Police Federation, the officers' staff association, wants most frontline officers to have Tasers.

He said: "In Devon and Cornwall, it has been recognised that Tasers are a really useful safety measure for officers and the public.

"They are really safe. Most people recover really quickly from a Taser and walk away."

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