Halifax MP who campaigned for law to protect police officers from violence says rise of Taser use is 'worrying'

Halifax MP Holly Lynch who was instrumental in getting new legislation to protect emergency services workers from being violently attacked has said it is "worrying" to see such a significant rise in the use of Taser by police officers.

Halifax MP and policeman's daughter Holly Lynch was the driving force in lobbying MPs to support the Protect the Protectors legislation, which she first introduced as a Ten Minute Rule Bill in 2016. Her campaign was the result of first-hand experience while she was out shadowing West Yorkshire Police and an officer was surrounded by an angry gang. As a result, the Labour MP had to call 999 for back up.

Holly Lynch MP with Chief Insp Nick Smart, Chair West Yorkshire Police Federation

Holly Lynch MP with Chief Insp Nick Smart, Chair West Yorkshire Police Federation

The law, brought in last year, meant offenders who attacked emergency services faced longer jail terms with an increase from six months to 12 months for offenders.

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Now, new figures obtained by the Yorkshire Post have revealed not only have attacks on officers risen across the county, but so has the use of Taser.

The county's largest police force, West Yorkshire Police, used a Taser on 749 occasions during 2018. Of those 749 times, a Taser was red-dotted - pointed at someone and the laser sight active so a red dot appears on the target - 468 times. It was drawn - taken out of its holder - 142 times, and actually fired on 80 occasions.

Alarmingly, the Taser was used on 520 occasions because a perpetrator had possession of an offensive weapon and 106 times because the officer themselves was threatened with a weapon.

In the same year, the force also saw a record number of assaults on officers with 1,897 incidents recorded by the Home Office. Of that number 480 officers were injured.

Ms Lynch said: “It is a worry to see the sharp rise in the use of Taser which reflects the increase in violent crime that police officers are routinely now having to deal with. Having witnessed taser training for police officers, I know that to use taser is never a decision which is taken lightly.

"Whilst only 80 of the 749 uses involved the taser being fired, I find it alarming that of those 749 instances, 626 were in response to someone in possession of an offensive weapon.

"Had the officer in those circumstances not been in possession of a taser and trained in how to use it, I fear that the officer would in an unacceptably vulnerable position.”

READ MORE: New emergency services attack law 'not a deterrent' says Halifax MP who campaigned for the legislation

"The 669 cases where taser was used, but not fired, is welcome suggesting that officers were able to deescalate dangerous situations using verbal commands, negotiating techniques and their experience, in order to deal with threats without the need to ultimately fire their taser.”

Ms Lynch has spoken previously of how the Government needs "to get really tough" on the Protect the Protectors Law because assaults are "still too high".

"It hasn't gone quite as far as we would like in terms of being a deterrent," she said.

"What I'm seeing far too often is, when sentences are handed out, they are suspended sentences or things like community resolutions ... which is not enforceable."