Police in Dorset drew Tasers on children on more than a dozen occasions last year, figures reveal.

Officers reported firing the electrical weapons in one 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 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 Dorset Police drew Tasers on children aged under 18 on 15 occasions in 2019-20, up from 10 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.

An officer fired a Taser once on someone aged between 11 and 17.

A senior figure at Dorset Police has said officers 'use force sparingly and only when necessary' and 'will sometimes need to use force to protect the public and themselves from harm'.

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.

A spokesman for Dorset Police said: "Dorset Police is committed to being transparent with the public around Use of Force and takes part in a quarterly scrutiny panel with the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner to review and scrutinise all use of force.

"This scrutiny ensures officers work continuously to ensure any force is always necessary, legal and in line with national guidelines, so officers can continue to make best use of the legislation to keep the communities of Dorset safe.

"Every time an officer uses any tactic other than verbal intervention, it has to be recorded. Use of force recording accounts for everything from restraint tactics and handcuffing, to the use of Taser and firearms.

Superintendent Heather Dixey, of Dorset Police, said: “Dorset Police compliance rates around use of force recording have always been strong and have seen continued improvements over the last year.

“Dorset officers work hard to carry out their duties to the highest standard, however, they will sometimes need to use force to protect the public and themselves from harm.

“The overall picture remains that Dorset Police uses force sparingly and only when necessary. In most incidents, non physical interventions are used first, without the requirement for force.”

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 Dorset Police reported using a spit and bite guard on children on 18 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.”

Overall, officers at Dorset Police recorded using some form of force on children on 1,034 occasions last year – 77% of those were for restraint, which can include handcuffing, restraining someone on the ground, or using specialist equipment to reduce the movement of someone’s arms and legs.

Other use of force can include using firearms, equipment such as batons, shields and irritant spray, and dogs.

Matt Twist, the National Police Chiefs' Council lead for self-defence and restraint, said force is “rarely used in the vast majority” of officers’ interactions with the public.

He added: “When it is necessary to use force – for example, when someone poses an immediate danger to others or themselves – it is used proportionately and lawfully.

“Most commonly, officers only use force to protect themselves from attack, which has been an increasing concern for chiefs in the last year as assaults against officers have increased.”

A Home Office spokesman said: “Our brave police put themselves in harm’s way to protect the public – it is vital they have the equipment and tactics they need to reduce crime and stay safe on the job.”