POLICE have fired Taser stun guns at people in St Helens 27 times in the last three years - including six times at youngsters aged between 12 and 19.
Startling new figures show that officers have discharged the weapons, which administer victims with a paralysing electric shock, at 26 incidents in St Helens since May 30, 2010 - including twice at one call-out.
Six of the targets were less than 20 years old, six were aged 20-29, four were in their 30s and nine were in their 40s.
On a number of occasions a Taser was fired in a bid to prevent a person from causing serious self-harm. But new figures show that Taser barbs were also fired at a drunk who kicked a police officer, at a knife-wielding burglar who was caught red-handed, at several domestic disturbances and at a dispute in which a thug was threatening neighbours with dogs.
Other Taser targets included an injured person who assaulted paramedics, a road rage offender, a suspect who ransacked a house before attempting to assault the police and a wanted person armed with a piece of glass.
Arrests were made at 23 of the 26 incidents, including 11 on suspicion of assault, 10 for public order offences, three for criminal damage and three for possession of an offensive weapon.
Fifteen of the suspects were subsequently charged. Of the 11 not charged, some were released, some cautioned, some issued with fixed penalty notices and some detained under mental health legislation.
The startling revelations were revealed after a Freedom of Information Act request by the St Helens Reporter.
Last month it emerged that a 12-year-old St Helens girl had been shot by police with a Taser in the summer of 2011 - despite fears the weapons can cause fatal heart attacks.
In America, more than 500 people have died after being shocked by a Taser and, in many cases, coroners have declared the use of Taser a contributory factor.
However a Merseyside Police spokesman defended the use of the weapon as a last resort and said officers had stuck to Home Office guidelines, which urge police to consider the age of the victim before discharging the Taser barbs.
He said: “The use of Taser offers officers a further tool in dealing with incidents where the safety of the public, the individual or the officers themselves is under threat.
“It has proved to be effective in reducing injuries to all parties during arrest. Officers who carry Taser are given specialist training and are re-assessed annually.”
Dave Watts MP said that “for obvious reasons” every effort should be made to avoid the use of Taser guns - especially on children.
The MP for St Helens North said: “The police have to make a judgement on the risks that the person poses to themselves, the police and the public. It’s not a judgement I would like to make because Tasers are not without risk - they can stop peoples’ hearts.
“Tasers should only be used if there’s a direct danger to the individual, the general public or the police officers. It should be a very rare event and should be closely monitored.”