South Yorkshire Police introduces use of controversial spit guards

An example of a spit guard.
An example of a spit guard.

South Yorkshire Police will start using controversial spit guards from January in a bid to reduce the number of attacks on officers.

The transparent mesh fabric hoods are put over a suspect's head and used to prevent them from spitting or biting officers.

Their use has sparked controversy with human rights campaign group Liberty calling them 'primitive, cruel and degrading.'

But South Yorkshire Police said the move was necessary as a member of staff is spat at at least once a day.

Deputy Chief Constable Mark Roberts, said: “Spitting on or at an officer is an assault. Our staff should be able to come to work and do their job, protecting the public of South Yorkshire, without being assaulted.

“The introduction of spit guards will offer a safe and practical barrier to protect our officers.”

They will be used in custody suites and officer training will begin early next year.

From March, the force will roll out their use to staff outside of custody suites to use while transporting prisoners.

The guards are currently used in 22 out of 43 forces across the UK.

Police stressed the guards will only be used by trained officers on a detainee who has already spat or threatened to do so.

The training includes communicating with the detainee to gain compliance so that the guard can be removed at the earliest opportunity.

All use of guards will be documented and reviewed to ensure proportionate use.

DCC Roberts continued: “A spit guard will only be used when absolutely necessary, following verbal warnings where the detainee will be informed that a spit guard will be used, should they continue with such behaviour.

“The safety and welfare of our officers is paramount, in order to allow them to continue their role in protecting the public of South Yorkshire.

“Spit guards will ultimately allow us to minimise a certain level of risk to our staff in preventing them from being assaulted, as well as allowing officers to bring a situation under control quickly and safely when someone is spitting or biting.”