Coronavirus: Amnesty says police spit hoods offer ‘no protection’

Amnesty International has called on the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) to suspend the use of spit hoods after “an admission they provide no protection from Covid-19”.

The organisation said there were implications for other UK police forces which have the same make of equipment. The PSNI has said it is reviewing the position as more information emerges. The PSNI began using the hoods during lockdown, after incidents where suspects coughed or spat at officers.

The Northern Ireland Policing Board approved their limited introduction at the end of March, after previously withholding consent.

Amnesty claimed the pandemic had been used “as cover” to roll out their use. The human rights body has long had serious reservations about the use of the hoods. They are made of a mesh-type fabric, and are placed over an individual’s head to prevent them biting or spitting at officers.

‘Counter the virus’

The PSNI wrote to Amnesty two weeks ago in response to concerns they raised. The police letter states the manufacturers have informed them the hoods are “not designed to stop airborne pathogens or respiratory droplets etc (i.e. Covid-19)”. But the PSNI added they could “counter the virus” if contained in saliva or blood when spitting or biting.

The PSNI said the spit hoods had been used 29 times between the end of March and 23 June. As is procedure, the Police Ombudsman has been informed about each incident. “The police have issued spit and bite guards as a temporary measure for use during the Covid-19 pandemic,” said Ch Supt Sam Donaldson. “We will continue to review this position in light of all available information.”

Mark Lambert
Author: Mark Lambert

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