UNICEF says the UK should ban the use of tasers and spit hoods on children

UNICEF has recommended the use of tasers and spit hoods should be banned in the UK.

The UN humanitarian organisation for children found that some police forces in England use them disproportionately on black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) children, and the continued use of tasers on children is in opposition to international rights standards.

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Prohibit the use on under 18s

Spit hoods are a device carried by officers to prevent a person from spitting or biting. Tasers are devices designed to incapacitate a person with a high voltage electrical discharge.

In a report released by UNICEF UK, the organisation said the UK government should prohibit the use of these items on children under the age of 18.

Data gathered from 29 police forces revealed that 51 per cent of children who had tasers used on them in England were from a BAME background.

UNICEF also called on the Home Office to assess the reasons “for the disproportionate use of spit hoods on BAME children in England.”

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Data from the Home Office revealed that between April 2018 to March 2019, tasers were used against under 18 year olds 3,280 times, and were used on children aged 11 or under 29 times.

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UN concerns

Tasers were first trialled in the UK in 2003 and have been increasingly used by police forces in the UK.

The UN committee on the rights of the child, as far back as 2008, has called on the UK government to restrict the use of tasers on under 18 year olds. It has urged ministers to treat taser guns and attenuating energy projectiles (AEPs) “as a weapon subject to the applicable rules and restrictions and put an end to the use of all harmful devices on children.”

The UK coalition government in 2014 confirmed that, despite the UN’s recommendations, children would not be exempt from being subject to the taser if they posed a threat.

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In March 2020, the Home Office announced that police forces in England and Wales would receive £6.7 million to purchase 8,155 tasers.

UNICEF also said that spit hoods are now used by the bulk of police forces in England and are increasingly being used on children who come into contact with the law.

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Home Office statistics obtained by the Children’s Rights Alliance for England (CRAE) revealed that Between April 2018 and March 2019, spit hoods were used on children on 312 occasions (including four children who were aged under 11), up from 47 occasions the previous year.

A Home Office spokesperson said, “Police put themselves in harm’s way to defend us and the use of tasers and spit and bite guards provides officers with an important tactical option when facing potentially violent situations.

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“We are clear that no one should be subject to use of force based on their race or ethnicity - it must be lawful, proportionate and necessary, and subject to proper scrutiny. Officers undergo comprehensive training to factor in potential vulnerabilities, and must take age and stature into account when assessing each situation.”