POLICE in Wiltshire drew their Tasers on children on dozens of occasions last year, figures reveal.

Officers reported firing the electrical weapons in five of those cases.

The Children’s Rights Alliance for England says the recorded increase in use of Tasers against children by police forces across England and Wales is “alarming”.

The children’s human rights charity says being threatened with a Taser can be extremely frightening for a child even if the weapon is not fired, and has called for a ban on their use on young people.

Home Office figures show Wiltshire Police drew Tasers on children aged under 18 on 31 occasions in 2019-20, which increased from 24 the previous year.

The figure counts the number of times each officer involved in an incident used the device rather than the number of separate incidents or how many children were involved. The age recorded is that perceived by the officer.

Officers fired a Taser five times, although none of those involved under-11s.

When fired, Tasers are designed to temporarily incapacitate someone by giving them an electric shock.

A device can be fired at someone from a distance or held against their body to stun them.

Across the 43 police forces in England and Wales, Tasers were used on children on 2,818 occasions in 2019-20, up from 1,700 the previous year.

They were fired in 134 cases, none of which involved children under 11.

Louise King, director of the Children’s Rights Alliance for England, said: “The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child that monitors the UK's child rights obligations has been very clear that Tasers should be prohibited on children, and yet their use continues to increase at an alarming rate year on year.

“Even if a Taser is not actually fired, being threatened with one is still extremely frightening for children.”

The figures also show Wiltshire Police reported using a spit and bite guard on children on 15 occasions last year, all of whom were aged 11 to 17.­­

In 2018-19, the police force recorded No uses of the fabric hoods, which are used to protect an officer or someone else from spitting or biting.

They were used on children 548 times across England and Wales last year, up from 312 a year earlier.

This included seven cases involving under-11s.

Ms King said there has been no rigorous assessment of the safety of using spit hoods and Tasers on children, despite evidence they can cause “serious harm and trauma”.

“We want the use of Tasers and spit hoods on children to be banned,” she added.

“At the very least, the Government must urgently publish clear guidance and training for the police to ensure the use of these devices on under-18s is avoided unless absolutely necessary.”

A spokesman from Wiltshire Police said: “It is important to clarify that these figures show that although there were 31 occasions where a Taser was drawn against an under 18, a Taser was only discharged on five occasions.

“This shows that a Taser can be a highly-effective deterrent when an officer is responding to a volatile or dangerous situation, and is a non-lethal and safe alternative to a police firearm.

“Protecting the public is paramount to Wiltshire Police and officers who carry a Taser undertake rigorous training in line with national standards and best practice.

"This includes effective decision-making for its use based on circumstances faced in each individual case.

“We continually monitor and review incidents involving Taser in Wiltshire to ensure the use is appropriate and proportionate.”