The BBC recently published data obtained via a Freedom of Information request relating to the use of fabric spit hoods by the UK’s police forces.
The data shows that 17 of the country’s 49 police forces use spit hoods, with a further four police forces considering whether to introduce these.
Apparently, these hoods have been used at least 2,486 times, with at least 635 of these uses being on people with suspected mental health issues. There have been 91 occasions where Police used a spit hood on people aged under 18, including one example where a hood was used on a 12-year-old girl by North Wales Police.
A spit hood is a mesh fabric hood placed over the head of a detained person to prevent spitting or biting. They are usually used when moving people from one place to another or when suspects are in custody suites.
Police justify the use of such hoods, claiming that they are used only when proportionate, appropriate and justified, to protect officers. The Police Federation has proposed that all forces adopt them as standard kit for all officers.
There are, however, concerns about their use. A pilot for their use planned by the Metropolitan Police was cancelled after Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London, voiced concerns about their use. Kent Police also decided against using spit hoods after considering the impact on the person having one placed on them and potential issues after their use.
The use of such hoods can cause distress, humiliating those they are placed on, and can also cause practical issues as they make it more difficult for officers to see if a prisoner is experiencing difficulty breathing.
Where they are used on children or those suffering from mental illness, they can cause huge levels of panic, and their use on these people is particularly humiliating and degrading.
It is arguable that their use is a breach of human rights as Police and other public bodies are prohibited from subjecting people to inhuman and degrading treatment. This is one of the fundamental rights protected under the Human Rights Act 1998. It is essential to make sure that, whilst the Police need to be able to do their job safely, the use of spit hoods does not infringe upon this right.
If you believe you or a loved one has been a victim of police misconduct you can contact our expert Actions Against Police solicitors in Liverpool and Manchester. Call the team today on 033 321 4580 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.