Queensland bans ‘inhumane’ spit hoods

Queensland police have banned the use of controversial spit hoods in watchhouses across the state, following a review.

The decision by Queensland Police Commissioner Katarina Carroll was announced on Monday, but the Greens say they can still be used in prisons and correction centres.

The hoods, which are made of fabric and placed over a detainee’s head to stop them from spitting or biting are considered a potential suffocation risk.

Spit hoods have been used across the state 138 times between 2015 and 2022 after being introduced in 2009.

However, an estimates hearing in August was told they had only been used eight times on minors – aged between 10 and 17 – since 2019 with no data for adult use revealed.

Greens MP Michael Berkman led the call for the ban to bring Queensland in line with the majority of Australian jurisdictions.

“Queensland Police deserve credit for scrapping these torture devices. The government should follow through on the commitment by banning them in legislation,” Mr Berkman told AAP.

“Despite the availability of clear alternatives like PPE, spit hoods have been used in prisons and watch houses, on children and adults, and disproportionately on First Nations people.

“There’s no good reason to put a bag over someone’s head, especially in watch houses where children as young as 10 are held in Queensland.”

Police insisted spit hoods were “rarely used” and could only be applied by trained staff with their use reported and overseen by senior officers.

The decision to discontinue spit hood use followed extensive consultation with the Queensland Police Union, other jurisdictions and government agencies.

“The QPS is committed to enhancing our practices to ensure we are delivering high-quality policing services to the community we proudly serve,” the commissioner said in a statement on Monday.

‘”We recognise there are community concerns around the application of safety hoods in police watchhouses and we undertook an extensive review of the issue before formally discontinuing their use.”

The commissioner said watchhouse staff would now use alternative protection.

“The QPS will implement a number of safety measures in watchhouses including increased PPE, additional protective screens and rolling out a new operational skills training program for watchhouse staff.”

The use of spit hoods and restraint chairs was described as “inhumane” by a 2017 royal commission into the Protection and Detention of Children in the Northern Territory, which recommended their use be ended.

The Northern Territory government is also reportedly considering alternatives to the use of spit hoods on young people in police custody.

South Australia legislated a ban on the use of spit hoods last November.


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