Sian Berry condemns the use of spit hoods by Met Police

Used to forcibly cover people’s heads to prevent them from spitting and biting, the controversial use of spit hoods in police custody suites has faced strong criticism from human rights campaigners. As the Metropolitan Police announce that it will now be rolling out the practice on London’s streets, Green Party Co-Leader Sian Berry condemns the hoods as “dehumanising”.

Sian Berry
Sian Berry
Imogen Benson

The Metropolitan Police has confirmed that it will be bringing the controversial ‘spit hoods’ into use on London’s streets, despite criticism from Green Party Co-leader Sian Berry.

Spit hoods – meshed bags placed over people’s heads to prevent spitting and protect police officers from risk of infection – had previously only been used in a three-month trial in police custody suites. 

Data obtained by Sian Berry found that between August 2017 and April this year, spit hoods had been used in custody suites against 704 Londoners, of which a disproportionate number were black. 

The data also shows that spit hoods had been used on 36 young people under the age of 18, and at least one 80-year-old. 

The police have now announced that, ‘following a review’, they intend to use the hoods on the streets as well as in custody suites, with no sign of a public consultation.

Sian Berry said: “The use of spit hoods – essentially a bag over someone’s head – is an extremely dehumanising tactic and I am convinced that alternative protection should be provided to police officers at risk of infection in cases of extreme behaviour. 

“I’ve asked for an update on how spit hoods are being used in custody suites – and crucially against which groups of Londoners – and its use against under 18s and older Londoners does nothing to reduce my concerns.

“In addition the disproportionate use of hoods on black Londoners continues. Only 13 per cent of Londoners are black, but the proportion of those who have been subjected to spit hoods is 26 per cent in this latest data.”

In 2016, London Mayor Sadiq Khan intervened in the Met’s plans to roll out spit hoods in custody suites, calling for any decisions to be ‘informed by public engagement’. 

The use of spit hoods has also been heavily criticised by human rights groups such as Liberty and Amnesty International.