The ACT Greens have continued to examine ACT Policing’s use of spit hoods during Estimates hearings today after learning that a teenage girl had been placed in a spit hood while in custody recently.
“Police in New South Wales, Victoria, Tasmania and South Australia do not need spit hoods, so why in a Human Rights jurisdiction, do ACT Policing?” asked ACT Greens MLA for Yerrabi and Police spokesperson, Andrew Braddock. “Spit hoods have never been used at the Alexander Maconochie Centre, Bimberi, or Dhulwa, demonstrating that there are alternative ways to assist people in distress.”
In Estimates today, we learnt:
- The Commissioner of ACT Corrective Services Mr Ray Johnson stated that they do not use spit hoods at the Alexander Maconochie Centre and to the best of his knowledge had never used them.
- The ACT Human Rights Commissioner, Dr Helen Watchirs OAM stated that:
- The use of spit hoods could constitute cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment.
- Personal Protective Equipment is now used in many workplaces, particularly high risk, such as ambulance officers and nurses. Alternatives are available that are much less intrusive and much less degrading.
Minister Emma Davidson also has confirmed in writing that spit hoods are not used at Bimberi or Dhulwa, and that there are effective alternative ways of managing worker safety.
ACT Greens MLA for Yerrabi and Police spokesperson, Andrew Braddock, said he was concerned that spit hoods are being used by ACT Policing despite the ACT being a Human Rights Jurisdiction.
“No one should be spat upon while they do their job, but there are more suitable and humane measures for police to use. Alternative measures are more effective and safer. These include minimising face-to-face contact by placing them in a secure area, utilising divisional vans for transport and personal protection equipment such as eye wear, face shields, masks and gloves.”
“Spit hoods should not be used as punishment, as they are dangerous, degrading devices that restrict breathing,” Mr Braddock said.
“I encourage the Minister for Police and ACT Policing to explore these alternative measures already used by the remainder of the ACT Government.”
- A spit hood is a bag constructed out of mesh that is placed over the head of a detainee to stop them from spitting or biting, with the aim of preventing injury to or infection of the police officer.
- According to ACT Policing, a number of considerations are given before any type of restraint is used on a person in custody. These considerations include the safety of the person in custody, the safety of others (including other persons in custody), threats made to expel bodily fluid, recorded history of spitting, aggressive or threatening behaviour, the likelihood of injury to any person and the circumstances of the incident.
- The operational use of a spit hood is governed by the AFP Commissioner’s Order 3 on operational safety.
- As of 12 April 2022, there are approximately 100 spit hoods in stock at the ACT Watchhouse.
- On 21 June 2022, Minister Davidson responded to the ACT Human Rights Commission confirming that the legal framework in our youth justice system means spit hoods should never be, and never has been, used in Bimberi. A copy of the letter is available here.