Probe into police Taser incident

A watchdog is to supervise an investigation into the Tasering by police of three teenagers with complex learning difficulties.

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A Taser was used on three teenagers with learning difficulties during an incident at a school

Devon and Cornwall Police deployed the Taser on the boys, all aged 14 or 15, after being called to Chelfham Senior School, near Plymouth, following reports of an alleged assault on a teacher.

The teacher was treated at the scene by paramedics for chest and head injuries before being taken to Derriford Hospital.

Following the incident on the evening of December 1, Devon and Cornwall Police referred itself to the Independent Police Complaints Commission.

Now the IPCC has announced that it has asked the force to carry out an investigation into the incident, which it will supervise.

The watchdog said that according to the information provided by Devon and Cornwall Police the Taser was used on three boys aged 14 and 15 following a 999 call about a violent incident at the school.

IPCC Associate Commissioner Tom Milsom said: "From the review we have carried out of Taser complaints we have specific concerns about some of the ways and circumstances in which it is used.

"We have asked Devon and Cornwall Police to carry out a supervised investigation into the incident at Chelfham Senior School so that the public can be reassured that the examination of this incident receives independent oversight."

The school, which is owned by the exclusive Priory Group, specialises in children with learning difficulties including behavioural, emotional and social difficulties and autism.

It is a day and residential school for boys and girls aged seven to 19, and is owned by the company known for its addiction clinics favoured by celebrities.

Devon and Cornwall Police also is being investigated by the police watchdog over an incident in which a man who doused himself in petrol burst into flames when he was shot with a Taser.

Andrew Pimlott, 32, suffered horrific injuries in the confrontation outside his house in Plymouth and died in a hospital burns unit five days later.

Figures released to Parliament earlier this year showed armed officers discharged, targeted or threatened to use Tasers against youngsters more than 320 times in 2011 - an 11-fold increase from the first year they were cleared for use against under-18s in 2007.

In the first year of officers being cleared to Taser children, they were used 29 times in England. By 2009, this had increased to 135.

In 2010, the weapons were used 339 times against children and by 2011 - the latest year that figures are available - the total stood at 323.

The figures were released following a parliamentary question asked by Lib Dem backbencher Julian Huppert.

In 2004, following a trial in five forces, it was agreed to allow chief officers of all police forces in England and Wales to make Tasers available to authorised firearms officers.