Use of Tasar stun guns extended under new powers

John Reid has promised more powers for the police, including extending the number of officers authorised to use controversial tasar stun guns.

The move was presented as a further attempt by the government to “rebalance” the criminal justice system in favour of victims. The announcement come days after Mr Reid said human rights laws should be “re-written” to combat terrorism.

Continuing this theme, the home secretary argued the police will play a “crucial” role in security in the 21st century, and must be rewarded with enhanced powers.

Speaking at the annual Police Federation conference in Blackpool, Mr Reid told police they would be given the “necessary tools and resources.” This included new powers under the criminal justice bill.

In response to public concerns, Mr Reid said police would gain extended powers to close pubs and clubs known for excessive noise and rowdy behaviour.

Controversially, Mr Reid also announced a trial to extend the use of Taser stun guns, subject to medical advice. At present, only trained fire arms officers can wield the guns, which immobilise suspects using an electric current.

Tasers are described as non-lethal, but Amnesty International claims a number of deaths in the US and UK have been linked to police stun guns.

Mr Reid said: “The Police Service is facing unprecedented challenges and this Government is committed to providing them with the tools they need to meet the demands of modern policing.

“That is why I have today announced additional powers for the police and, subject to independent medical advice, a trial to extend the use of Tasers to specially trained teams.”

The Conservatives supported the extended use of Taser stun guns. Shadow home secretary David Davis said he had “no problem” with the proposals, as long as discretion as to their use remains with the chief constable.

Overall, however, he was critical of Mr Reid’s statement, describing it as a lame announcement from a lame duck home secretary.

The Liberal Democrats’ Nick Clegg agreed Mr Reid’s comments were about grabbing headlines not real improvements.

He said: “This is a reheated announcement of last-minute initiatives from the fag end of Tony Blair’s government.

“John Reid must explain why the vast number of police powers introduced over the last ten years haven’t delivered, before he starts pushing for yet more powers on the statute book.”

Addressing the conference, the home secretary insisted crime had fallen over the past ten years. But he acknowledged the public perception does not always reflect this, feeding into the perceived need to “rebalance” the justice system.

Mr Reid unveiled the extended use of potentially lethal stun guns as part of the “tools and resources” needed by the police to fight crime.

The home secretary delivered his speech the day after Metropolitan police officers shot a man dead in West London.