THE use of Taser guns is on the rise in Wiltshire, Home Office figures have revealed.

Records show Wiltshire Police used the stun weapons on 10 occasions between January and March this year, the latest period for which figures are available.

Officers used Tasers an average of more than three times per month during that period.

By contrast, the average number of uses over the previous five years was less than one per month.

The guns, which look like fluorescent pistols, use compressed air to Fire">Fire">Fire">Fire">Fire">fire two darts that trail an electric cable back to the handset.

When the darts strike, a five-second 50,000-volt charge is released down the cable, temporarily paralysing the target’s muscles, leaving them incapacitated and easier to arrest.

The figures showed that since the introduction of tasers in 2004 Wiltshire Police used the devices on a total of 54 occasions. Not every use resulted in the weapon being discharged.

An analysis of the figures showed Tasers were fired 27 times, while a ‘red dot’ from a weapon was aimed at targets on 21 occasions.

Current guidance states Tasers can only be used where officers would be facing violence or threats of violence of such severity that they would need to use force to protect the public, themselves and/or the subject.

Nationally, figures showed the devices were used 250 times between January and March 2009, up from 187 in the previous quarter.

They were discharged 62 times in the three months to April, compared with 35 in the last three months of 2008.

Specially trained units across England and Wales have now used Tasers a total of 4,818 times – and discharged them on 1,407 occasions – since their introduction in April 2004.

Inspector Graham Copestake, of Wiltshire Police, said: “A Taser allows officers to ensure both their safety and that of the public when confronted. They are very effective in helping resolve potentially dangerous situation both quickly and safely.”