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Legal bid to ban spit guards launched

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Firm argues that the devices are not necessary or proportionate.

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Solicitors are seeking a complete ban on spit guard use by police in England and Wales.

Police Oracle can reveal lawyers from Irwin Mitchell have launched an application for judicial review against all deployment of the equipment.

They argue the National Police Chiefs’ Council should have halted use of the devices following the review of a 2012 case in which a disabled 11-year-old girl was hooded and put in leg restraints by Sussex Police.

The IPCC criticised the force in a report about her treatment last year.

Yogi Amin, an expert civil liberties solicitor at Irwin Mitchell, said: “A number of police forces in the UK, including large forces such as the Merseyside Police and West Midlands Police, do not allow officers to use spit hoods on adults, let alone children with significant disabilities.

“The IPCC’s findings following its investigation into the treatment our young client received at the hands of Sussex Police indicate a clear need for improvements in the way the force responds to disabled children and a full exploration of the policy on spit hood use – including the risks and alternatives – within all forces by the National Police Chiefs’ Council.

“The police, of course, do a difficult and important job and it is right that they should have the equipment they need, but hooding someone is a serious decision.

“Hooding children is a step too far, particularly in the absence of clear evidence that these devices are necessary or a proportionate means of protecting officers bearing in mind the alternative safe strategies available.” 

The solicitors want alternatives to be introduced which "protect officers rather than restrict detainees" a spokeswoman added.

West Midlands Police is currently exploring whether to introduce the equipment, Chief Constable Dave Thomson told the Police Federation Conference in May.

Chief constables were informed of the application for judicial review a few weeks ago and a QC from the Met Police’s legal team was assigned to provide an initial response.

This website understands that the NPCC intends to fight the case, and expect the Police Federation and College of Policing, as well as spit guard manufacturers to become interested parties in the proceedings.

In May, NPCC chairman Chief Constable Sara Thornton told PoliceOracle.com evidence was being gathered to support the guards’ deployment.

Che Donald from the Police Federation said: “It is not right that officers get assaulted. Over half of police forces in the UK are now utilising spit guards in one way or another and there isn’t anything else that protects officers in the same way.

“If you don’t spit you won’t have to wear one. And if there is not a spit guard and someone is spitting at a police officer, the officer is going to have to use physical force - which is more than likely to be on the head - and causes far more risk."

He added nothing else is as effective and practical as using a spit guard.

The case has emerged just after the Met, the biggest force in the UK, rolled-out the use of spit guards in all of its custody suites.

The force said that an earlier, limited, trial of the equipment had been “successful” although it did not explain how it arrived at this conclusion.

In a statement on the extension of its use, a Met Police spokesman said: “The Met has a duty of care to its officers and staff - the issue of spitting and biting is a real problem and a particularly unpleasant form of assault which rightly generates a lot of concern amongst officers.

“Aside from the fact that as an employer the Met cannot expect its staff to be spat at, or think this is acceptable, some of the follow-up treatment required after such an assault can be prolonged and unpleasant.”

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What happens if a assailant spits in the face of an Officer? perhaps Community Order or less.

What would happen if an officer spat in the face of a prisoner? The officer would, rightly, be hounded, and prosecuted and dismissed, so why not the same for an MOP who spits at an officer?

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