Fury at London Mayor for ‘appalling’ decision to block police spit hoods

Conservative councillor Keith Prince
Fury: London Assembly member Keith Prince called the Mayor’s interference ‘appalling’. Photograph: London Assembly

A Conservative London Assembly member has slammed Sadiq Khan’s “appalling” intervention into police plans to use spit hoods in the capital.

The Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) was getting ready to trial the protective gear in custody suites next month.

But the Mayor of London called a halt to the scheme, saying senior officers must explain why the hoods are necessary before they can be introduced.

London Assembly member Keith Prince, who is also a councillor in Redbridge, said: “It is appalling that the Mayor has chosen to interfere with police operational matters and block the use of spit hoods.

“Has he forgotten he is no longer representing those who make claims against the police but in fact representing the police themselves?

“The decision to use these hoods would have been taken as a result of a risk assessment showing that officers were at risk of infection transferred by spitting. I myself know of one serious example of that.

“What risk assessment has the Mayor based this intervention on and what alternative safeguards has he put in place to protect officers on the front line?”

The use of spit hoods caused controversy in July when British Transport Police officers were filmed putting one on a man at London Bridge tube station.

Campaigners say the hoods breach suspects’ human rights.

Commenting on the Mayor’s decision to suspend the pilot scheme, Amnesty International’s Oliver Sprague said: “We’re relieved that the Met Police has put the brakes on what was a very controversial decision.

“What’s urgently needed now is detailed national guidance on how these restraints can be used, the exact models which are used by all forces and assurances that this barbaric equipment will only be used when absolutely necessary.”

But a spokesman for Scotland Yard said the use of spit guards “has been closely monitored for a number of years”.

He added: “There are now a number of forces where spit guards are used both operationally in response to incidents and in custody.

“The Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) has a duty of care to its officers and staff – the issue of spitting and biting is a real problem, particularly in a custody environment, and is a significant health risk.

“A pilot within the controlled environment of custody suites had been arranged for October. This was agreed by the MPS Policy Forum in February, which is made up of officers and staff from across the organisation.

“A consultation process regarding their use has taken place and involved community advisors from Newham’s Independent Advisory Group, in addition to local magistrates and judicial staff.

“However, with a new administration coming into City Hall since then, the MPS has listened to concerns and will consult further before starting any pilot.”

A spokesperson for the London Mayor’s office said: “The Mayor has not been consulted about this decision, and we will be looking into the details of the scheme before the pilot starts.”

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