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Cambridgeshire police's 'spit hood' use against children is fourth highest

By Alex Spencer

Cambridgeshire police recordd the fourth highest use in the country of spit hoods against children last year.

Cambridgeshire Police had the fifth highest use in the country of spit hoods against children last year
Cambridgeshire Police had the fifth highest use in the country of spit hoods against children last year

A spit-hood is a bag made of mesh-like material, with a drawstring to tighten it, which is put over a person’s head to prevent them from spitting.

New data published this week reveals that Cambridgeshire Constabulary used spit-hoods against children aged 17 and under on eight occasions in the first nine months of 2018.

This new data was revealed thanks to research for a new out today called The State of Children’s Rights in 2018, published by the Children’s Rights Alliance for England (CRAE), the policy arm of children’s charity Just for Kids Law. Over the same period Tasers were used seven times against children by Cambridgeshire Police. In contrast, the Metropolitan Police used tasers against children 455 times.

Louise King, director of CRAE and director of policy and campaigns at Just for Kids Law, said: “It is alarming to see increasing use of spit-hoods against children by police forces up and down the country, including in Cambridgeshire.

“Spit-hoods can cause serious psychological suffering as well as physical harm and even fatalities. Children have also told us how frightening and traumatising the threat of their use can be. The use of spit-hoods against children should be prohibited. As an immediate first step, police regulations, training and guidance must be revised to ensure this equipment is only ever used as an absolute last resort when all other options have been exhausted.”

The forces with the highest use of spit-hoods against children in the first nine months of 2019 were:

1. Metropolitan Police Service: 33

2. Hertfordshire Constabulary: 11

3. Thames Valley Police: 10

4. Cambridgeshire Constabulary: 8

5. Avon and Somerset Constabulary: 7

= Derbyshire Constabulary: 7

The report includes new data gathered using Freedom of Information requests showing increasing use of force by the police against children - not all forces responded to the requests.

The report states risk assessments by the police have highlighted the dangers of ‘breathing restriction and asphyxia’ and the Independent Office of Police Conduct are investigating the deaths of several adults following the use of spit-hoods.

A spokesperson for Cambridgeshire Police said: “As a force we use spit hoods to protect our officers and members of the public from being spat at. Not only is spit potentially hazardous it is also incredibly unpleasant and demeaning for anyone to be spat on.

“Officers are particularly mindful about the use of spit hoods, especially when it comes to their use on young people, and use them only when officers feel it is justified.

“There are no current plans to stop using spit hoods on young people where necessary.”

Since summer 2017, all forces in the UK began to record and then publish information on use of force including use of spit hoods and Tasers in incidents involving young people.

The police spokesperson added: “As the recording system is in its early stages the data it produces nationwide is considered inconsistent and we believe a comparatively high number of reported uses of spit hoods and Tasers in Cambridgeshire represents our success in recording when these are used.”

To read the report in full, visit crae.org.uk.

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