Coronavirus

PSNI last police service in UK to be issued with 'spit and bite' guards

Police Federation chairman Mark Lindsay.

THE chairman of the Police Federation has said the PSNI are the last police service UK not to have access to spit and bite guards to protect front line officers.

The guards made of lightweight mesh and plastic and are placed over the head of a person who is threatening to spit or bite officers during detention.

"The failure to immediately introduce the guards in Northern Ireland is inexcusable and places officers at increased risk during this worsening Covid-19 crisis", Mark Lindsay said.

Earlier this week a Belfast man was charged with allegedly coughing in the faces of two police officers and claiming that he had Covid-19.

Police had gone to detain Brendan Walker following allegations of two separate attacks on his partner.

Mr Lindsay said: "Every other police service in the United Kingdom has these spit and bite guards on issue to protect their officers.

"However, despite representations to both PSNI and the Policing Board, we are still unable to have this equipment issued.

"As Covid-19 worsens, and enforcement is stepped up, our officers will find themselves in difficult and potentially dangerous situations.

"They must have these spit and bite guards to protect themselves and, by extension, their work colleagues and families."

In response to Mr Lindsay's comments a policing board spokesperson said:"Prior to the Covid-19 crisis, the board had been asked by the chief constable to consider the introduction of spit and bite guards to the PSNI.

"In considering this request the board wanted to make sure that the PSNI has access to equipment which supports its work.

"However the health and safety duty of care to our police service must also be balanced with the impact of the use of such equipment, human rights implications and community impact.

"In light of the current coronavirus situation, the chief constable advised the board an operational decision had been taken to introduce this equipment into custody suites and this was supported by the board".

But a human rights body has cautioned against the introduction of the use of spit and bite guards by the PSNI.

Amnesty's Northern Ireland programme director Patrick Corrigan said they would advise against the use of spit guards in the context of coronavirus until specific guidance has been developed on the risks and effectiveness for police officers and members of the public.

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