The Home Secretary’s role in approving police use of less lethal weapons has been strengthened by dint of what is the first change to the firearms Code of Practice for 17 years. The new Code of Practice will meet one of the recommendations of the Grainger Inquiry, which called for the process to have greater clarity after it was found that Greater Manchester Police was using CS cannisters without Secretary of State approval.
The Grainger Inquiry followed the death of Anthony Grainger, who was fatally shot by Greater Manchester Police.
Policing Minister Kit Malthouse said: “We set up the Grainger Inquiry to provide answers for his family and to ensure policing learned the lessons from the tragedy. This new Code of Practice shows we are responding swiftly to the Grainger Inquiry’s recommendations. The use of firearms by the police should always be a last resort and considered only where there’s a serious risk to public or police safety.”
‘Less lethal weapons’ approved for police use currently includes tasers and attenuating energy projectiles.
The approval process has been strengthened by stating explicitly that Secretary of State approval is required for all new less lethal weapons systems and all significant changes existing systems.
The new Armed Policing and Police Use of Less Lethal Weapons Code of Practice will be published by the College of Policing. It replaces the 2003 Code of Practice for the Police Use of Firearms and Less Lethal Weapons.
The Code of Practice sets out the basic principles of the selection, evaluation, approval, authorisation, acquisition, training and deployment of firearms and less lethal weapons by the police.
Bidding for more tasers
Police and Crime Commissioners across England and Wales can start bidding to equip more of their officers with tasers as part of a Home Office drive to give police more powers and tools to tackle crime.
This follows Home Secretary Priti Patel’s commitment to put more officers carrying tasers on the streets through a £10 million ring-fenced fund, allowing them to better protect themselves and others from harm.
Bidding will open on a new online platform launched by the Home Office, where forces will decide how much funding they apply for based on the threat and risk in their local area.
Patel said: “Our brave police officers put themselves in harm’s way to protect us and I’m committed to giving them the tools they need to keep themselves and the public safe. The rise in assaults on officers is appalling which is precisely why I’m providing funding to equip up to 10,000 more officers with tasers. It’s an important tactical option for the police when facing potentially physically violent situations.”
Police and Crime Commissioners will need to outline how many additional officers they plan to train to use tasers. The final funding allocations for forces, which cover 2019 to 2020 and 2020 to 2021, will be announced in February.
This comes after a series of announcements supporting the police, including a commitment to boost their ranks with 20,000 new officers over the next three years and increased Stop and Search powers. The Government also plans to consult on increasing the maximum sentence for assaulting police officers and other Emergency Services workers to ensure jail terms truly fit the crime.
A new Police Powers and Protection Bill was announced in the Queen’s Speech which will provide the police with additional powers to protect the public and establish a police covenant, thereby ensuring that officers and their families receive the right emotional and physical support.