30 August 2022

Spit hood used on a 16-year-old girl by police in Canberra

| Lottie Twyford
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ACT Chief Police Officer Neil Gaughan

ACT Chief Police Officer Neil Gaughan revealed in Budget estimates a spit hood was used on a 16-year-old girl. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

The Territory’s police used a spit hood on a 16-year-old girl who became violent with officers after refusing to give up her alcohol in the city.

This was revealed in budget estimates hearings on Monday (29 August) by ACT Chief Police Officer Neil Gaughan when questioned about the use of the devices.

Spit hoods are masks made of mesh and used to stop detainees from spitting or biting officers. They can lead to suffocation if used incorrectly.

It’s understood around 100 of the devices are in stock in the ACT Watchhouse.

South Australia is the only Australian state to have banned spit hoods. The ban was enacted in 2021 following the death of Indigenous man Wayne ‘Fella’ Morrison in custody in 2016 after he had been restrained with one.

Queensland police confirmed in budget estimates hearings earlier this month they continue to use spit hoods on minors.

Spit hood

Spit hoods are designed to stop detainees from spitting or biting officers. Photo: ICS Jail Supplies.

CPO Gaughan said they were used “very seldomly”, but he did not have exact numbers to hand as there is no specific data collected.

He noted that between March 2020 and this month, there have been 26 reports of police being spat at or bitten.

CPO Gaughan said he had personally been spat at as an operational police officer.

“I’d rather be smacked in the mouth than spat at, to be honest. I think it’s an abhorrent act to undertake,” he told the estimates hearing.

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He said spit hoods helped protect police officers and they were considered safe when used in accordance with their instructions and were not being used on children.

“Once a person’s placed in a holding cell, the spit hood is removed. Frontline operational police officers do not generally carry them. It’s a rare event that it’s used,” he told the hearing.

“As an example, we had a person in the watch house recently who was biting the inside of their mouth until such time as it started to bleed and then they spat at my officers.

“A spit hood was used in that circumstance to stop that person from spitting and then placed in the cell and the spit hood was removed.”

The CPO took on notice whether the devices had been used on anyone younger than the aforementioned 16-year-old girl.

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Greens spokesperson for police and emergency services Andrew Braddock raised concerns about the lack of reporting available for the use of spit hoods after CPO Gaughan said it would be included in the same category as instances of using handcuffs and capsicum spray.

“It would require manual interrogation for us – basically going through every case to determine in what instances spit hoods have been used,” he said.

Mr Braddock encouraged the government and police to explore other measures in the ACT, noting Tasmania had moved to use personal protective equipment instead of spit hoods.

“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 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.”

ACT Policing said a number of considerations are given before any type of restraint is used on a person in custody.

That includes the safety of the person in custody, the safety of others (including other persons in custody), threats made to expel bodily fluid, the recorded history of spitting, aggressive or threatening behaviour, the likelihood of injury to any person and the circumstances of the incident.

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Greens won’t be happy until all criminals can roam free, and the police service has been crippled.

Mike of Canberra10:33 pm 30 Aug 22

Is it any wonder that some (really charming!) young people feel empowered to spit on police here in Canberra? After all, our police minister Shane Rattenbury seems intent on modelling the ACT on a number of US states and cities that flirted with de-funding their police services over the last couple of years. The worst, most disturbing aspect of these experiments was that the powers that be in these places seemed genuinely surprised when crime and violence inevitably spiked upwards. I mean, how could we believe that the noble underclass would ever lower themselves to such degrading activities? Here in Canberra, meanwhile, we find that our police service, in the process of being marginalised by their own Minister, will no longer attend burglaries. One of my favourite sayings is “Nothing green ever works”. Rattenbury and company are the living, breathing embodiment of that sentiment. Let’s send them packing at the earliest opportunity.

Im really struggling to see how this is news. Seems like another attempt to weaken police powers and respect.

SigmaOctantis5:39 pm 30 Aug 22

In a communist system like the ACT, people aren’t responsible for their own actions.

Finagen_Freeman3:11 pm 30 Aug 22

Spit hoods are dangerous, degrading devices that restrict breathing,” Mr Braddock said.

Spit hoods are used on degraded humans. Go figure. Throw a hood on every time some spits at you. No issues with that.

These spit hoods should be used any and every time they are needed. These thugs who treat others with disrespect need to learn that it’s not acceptable.

Spit on someone, and you lose your ‘dignified rights’, simple.

These inhumane and degrading practices used by the police in the ACT? Targetting young people? OMG isn’t there something better! I’m ashamed!!! I know the Canberra Libs and their dwingling numbers of supporters would be supportive and cheering the police on but where has Labor and the Greens been to allow this to happen?

Jack, how would you protect police from spitting or biting detainees, especially if they are spitting blood at police?

What’s inhumane and degrading is expecting people just doing their job to be subject to being spat on or bitten by others who have shown they can’t control their own disgusting behaviour.

Perhaps you should outline the alternatives that you think exist.

How exactly is this targeting? Person in custody made a decision to spit on police.

I think Jack is being sarcastic.

Spit hoods breach human rights and are primitive, degrading and cruel. The hoods can also lead to death. Show me a study that has concluded that spit hoods protect people from infectious diseases. How would you like one of your family members to be fitted with a spit hood. In 2016 we saw police in the NT using extreme force, restraint chairs and spit hoods at the Don Dale Detention Centre because they could and the LNP government at the time had given them free reign. The revelations led to a royal commission into the protection of children, mostly Indigenous in detention. It also led to the banning of spit hoods. I don’t like a government that uses policy to create targets and I don’t trust the police. I just can’t believe we have spit hoods in the criminal justice system in the ACT!

Jack, how would you feel if someone you know was bitten or spat on while undertaking their job?

“Show me a study that has concluded that spit hoods protect people from infectious diseases.

“Show me a study that has concluded that spit hoods protect people from infectious diseases.”

Show me a study that they don’t. Or perhaps you’re saying they aren’t effective enough and the design should be changed to make them more effective?

Considering the clear and demonstrated risk of disease from bodily fluids, I’m happy to err on the side of caution that people who spit and bite police officers and guards lose their rights to be treated without additional caution.

They shouldn’t be arbitrarily or proactively used without an identified risk but are a reasonable response to those who’ve shown an inability to control their own behaviour.

“How would you like one of your family members to be fitted with a spit hood”

I would be shocked and disappointed that my family member would behave so disgracefully.

Jack D. none of my family members would spit or bite a police officer as they have been raised with dignity and respect. if your family members have a habit of spitting at police officers then they deserve to wear the spit hood. human rights go out the door when you display this disgusting act. how about I come to your work and spit at you. bet you’d just sit there and take it you pelican.

So if someone humanely spits at police they are fitted with an inhumane spit hood.
Shock, horror, what is the world coming to.

Police use a lot of equipment. Used correctly and within the guidelines, there is no issues.

Next thing the Greens will be calling for police to go unarmed, without handcuffs, baton and OC spray.

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