The ACT Greens have expressed their concern about the use of spit hoods by ACT Policing, after it was revealed in Estimates today that a teenage girl had recently been placed in a spit hood while in custody.
In Estimates today, the Chief Police Officer Neil Gaughan said spit hoods are used “very seldomly”, despite not being able to specify how often they have been used. CPO Gaughan provided an example of a recent incident where a 16-year-old girl was placed in a spit hood.
ACT Greens MLA for Yerrabi and Police and Emergency Services spokesperson, Andrew Braddock, said he was concerned that spit hoods are being used in the ACT.
“No one should be spat upon while they do their job, but there are more suitable and humane measures for police to use. Spit hoods are dangerous, degrading devices that restrict breathing,” Mr Braddock said. “Spit hoods naturally become less breathable when they come into contact with fluids, further increasing the risk of suffocation.
“In combination with other restraint positions and devices, spit hoods have led to asphyxiation and death both in Australia and around the world.
“I am deeply concerned by ACT Policing’s inability to report on the use of spit hoods, so we have very little transparency into how people are being treated when in custody.
“Spit hoods are not used in most places in Australia because they are traumatic and potentially lethal devices. They have been implicated in the deaths of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in custody across Australia.
“Alternative measures used by Tasmania Police 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.
“Bimberi Youth Justice Centre does not and has never used spit hoods. If a young person is known to spit, staff have access to personal protection equipment such as face shields.
“I encourage the ACT Government and ACT Policing to explore what other measures can be used in the ACT.”
The following can be attributed to Change the Record Executive Officer, Sophie Trevitt:
“There is no safe way to use spit hoods. They have been implicated in the deaths of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in custody - including the tragic death of Wayne Fella Morrison.
“It beggars belief why spit hoods would still be in use in a so-called human rights jurisdiction like the ACT when other states and territories use alternatives to keep workers safe like face shields and PPE.”
- 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.
- As of 12 April 2022, there are approximately 100 spit hoods in stock at the ACT Watchhouse.