The Home Office has reached out to less -lethal weapons manufacturers as part of plans to reduce the number of guns.
The Home Office has reached out to non-lethal weapons manufacturers as part of plans to reduce the number of lethal weapons used by the police.
According to a new tender document, the Home Office is looking for a wider choice of weapons for the police, alongside existing non-lethal weapons and firearms.
As part of a “Request for Information” (RFI), which encourages suppliers of non-lethal weapons to discuss potential technology with the Home Office, the document sites UN guidelines which compel member states to move away from lethal weapons usage in policing.
The UN’s basic principles of firearms use says that Governments and law enforcement agencies “should include the development of non-lethal incapacitating weapons for use in appropriate situations, with a view to increasingly restraining the application of means capable of causing death or injury to persons”.
According to Government statistics, there were 900 more armed officers in the UK compared to 2015 in spite of the pledge to restrain lethal weapons.
The wider use of non-lethal weapons by UK police was championed by the Patten Report, which examined the state of policing in Northern Ireland following the Good Friday Agreement. The report advocated for a wider range of weapons to avoid unnecessary death or injury, and to prevent the inflammation of tensions.
Previous iterations of non-lethal weapons have proved to still have a significant threat to life, including plastic bullets. In evidence submitted by British Irish Rights Watch to parliament in 2008, the group described plastic bullets as having caused an “incalculable number of serious injuries”.
The Government has recently widened the use of non-lethal weapons across the police force, as part of a flurry of policies designed to combat crime.
Special Constables, who are volunteer officers, were given the right to carry stun guns by Priti Patel last month, if the officers had suitable training and permission from chief officers.
Measures to extend stop and search powers were also announced last month, allowing people to be stopped by police without reasonable grounds for suspicion.
A Home Office spokesperson told i that the tender was scoping out potential new technology, and there was currently no plan to discontinue any existing equipment.
A Home Office spokesperson said: “We are committed to giving the police the necessary tools to do their job effectively and we are unequivocal that all force used by police must be necessary and proportionate in all circumstances.
“The request for information is to scope out various types of less lethal weapons which could allow for differentiated use of force, but it does not mean there are any plans to discontinue the use of current equipment.”
Police across the UK already have access to a number of non-lethal weapons, and have historically used other forms. Most common is the taser or baton gun, with other technology including rubber bullets and sound cannons having been used previously.
Tasers – An electroshock weapon which fires barbs attached to batteries, the Taser entered UK policing in 2003. The use of Tasers has been widened by Home Secretary Priti Patel, who announced last month that volunteer officers could have access to the weapons.
‘Baton Guns’ – Baton Guns, or the attenuating energy projectile (AEP) is a regularly used non-lethal weapon for UK police. A soft-nosed projectile, the baton gun is designed to widen the impact area as an attempt to reduce traumatic injury. However, the college for policing warns that the baton gun still has the potential for lethal consequences in usage, as with most non-lethal weaponry.
Baton Rounds – Used often in the conflict in Northern Ireland, Baton Rounds have faced significant criticism for causing serious injury and death despite being billed as a less dangerous form of crowd control.
‘Sound Cannon’ – An LRAD, also known as a ‘long range acoustic device’, is a targeted high decibel sound emitter which has been used for crowd control by police internationally. The weapon was purchased by the Ministry of Defence in advance of the 2012 Olympics and was spotted fixed to a landing craft on the Thames.
The system made international news last year as Australian police used it to disperse anti-vaccine protests in Canberra.