United Nations set to condemn tasering of children

Sean Creaney
Monday, April 11, 2016

The United Kingdom (UK) government is due to report to the United Nations (UN) this May on its progress implementing and complying with the children's rights agenda.

There are a host of issues affecting children in society not least the stop and search of toddlers, dangerously growing levels of inequality, rising levels of food and fuel poverty, inadequate housing, use of force and segregation of children in prison and a low age of criminal responsibility to name but a crucial few.

These problems will surely intensify with this government's desire to decimate local authority social welfare support for the most in need, its commitment to further privatise education, health and social care services.

George Osborne's recent budget announcement is evidence of this. Despite irresponsible bankers being the cause of the recession and global financial problems, it is once again low income households, those with disabilities and the most vulnerable that are set to be particularly unfairly disadvantaged. It fails then to tackle such inequality in society. No doubt the UN will offer critical comment here.

Crucially it is expected the government will be warned by the UN to 'stop tasering children'. A total of 431 children were involved in police taser incidents in 2013, an increase of 37 per cent on the previous year.
The emotional effects of having a taser pointed at a child are significant. Also significant is the threat of the impending temporary paralysis that they can cause. It is an issue that certainly warrants questioning by the UN.

Tasers can have serious mental and physical health consequences and have resulted in death. In 2013 Jordan Begley died 2 hours after he was tasered by police officers.

The long-term effects of the use of tasers are also not properly understood. They pose an increased risk to children suffering from heart problems, epilepsy or asthma Disconcertingly they tend to be used overwhelmingly on those suffering ill mental health.

In 2008 the UK government reported to the UN on its compliance with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. Following this, amongst other comments and observations, the UN said that it wanted England and Wales to stop using such harmful devices on children. This has not happened. In fact taser usage has increased since 2008, hence the reasoning behind UN concern.

Tasering children quite clearly breaches their human rights. It is of course also not a practice that is in their "best interests". When will the UK government act upon the UN recommendation and ban the use of tasers, especially on children, to avoid more preventable deaths?

Sean Creaney is an advisor at social justice charity Peer Power

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