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Commission welcomes banning of spit hoods by AFP

Rights and Freedoms
Content type: Media Release
Topic(s): Civil and Political Rights

A decision by the Australian Federal Police to end the use of spit hoods has been welcomed by the Australian Human Rights Commission.

Today the AFP announced the AFP and ACT police will no longer use spit hoods, and instead the AFP will provide ‘alternative equipment and implement procedures to better protect officers from spitting and biting.’

The decision follows a review initiated last year by the AFP into the use of spit hoods, including whether the use of spit hoods was a reasonable and proportionate response against individuals who assault police officers by biting officers or spitting saliva or blood.

The review found even though spit hoods were only used on limited occasions by ACT police – and not used at all across the broader AFP – the risk of using spit hoods ‘outweighed the benefits of their use, given they are ineffective in protecting against transmissible diseases.’

The Commission – which has been campaigning for many years for the banning of spit hoods by all Australian authorities – provided a submission to the AFP review, and the decision by the AFP aligns with the Commission’s recommendations: Read our submission

Australia’s Human Rights Commissioner Lorraine Finlay said: “The Commission commends the AFP for taking this approach which will help protect the rights of both police and people in police custody.

“The Commission has long held the view that the use of spit hoods poses significant risks of injury and death, and that their use is contrary to human rights. Evidence clearly indicates that the key risk a spit hood is designed to prevent – the transmission of communicable diseases – is very low, making their use a disproportionate response.

“The Commission also recognises the health and safety of police officers needs to be protected and so we’re pleased the AFP has agreed that concerns around officer safety can be addressed by a range of alternative mitigation strategies”.

Australia’s National Children’s Commissioner Anne Hollonds said: “The use of spit hoods with children as young as 10 years of age is completely unacceptable and a breach of the human rights of children under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, to which Australia is a signatory.

“The use of spit hoods with vulnerable children has devastating short and long term consequences, especially for these children who have already experienced trauma, cognitive disabilities and mental health disorders. The use of spit hoods anywhere, including where children are deprived of their liberty, must be banned across Australia.”

The use of spit hoods was banned last year by the Queensland and Northern Territory Police Forces (the latter for young people only) and the South Australia government was the first jurisdiction to legislate an absolute ban on spit hood use in all situations in 2021.

Commissioner Finlay said: “We continue to believe that spit hoods should be banned across Australia, for all people of all ages and in all settings. I now look forward to the AFP’s decision acting as the catalyst to encourage other police forces, prisons and places of detention across Australia to follow suit and similarly commit to ending the use of spit hoods.

“I also commend the efforts of all the people and organisations the Commission works with in relation to this issue for achieving this important outcome for advancing human rights in Australia.”

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