A Spit and Bite Guard (SBG) is a controversial mesh hood, used to prevent a person from spitting on or biting police officers or staff. SBG were introduced by the PSNI, without consultation, last year as a temporary measure for the duration of the Coronavirus pandemic.
The use of SBGs constitutes a use of force. As such, there are human rights issues around the their adoption by the PSNI. There are specific concerns about the use of the guards on children and people with disabilities. According to the PSNI’s own data, 81% of the uses of the guards to date have been on people with disabilities.
Additionally, there is no evidence that they prevent the transmission of Covid-19, despite the risk of Covid-19 transmission being the primary rationale for their introduction.
In November 2020, the NI Policing Board recommended PSNI’s use of the guards be phased out completely by the end of 2020, but the PSNI has instead decided to increase the rollout (another 4,000 are planned to be rolled-out in 2021).
An EQIA on the use of the spit and bite guards has subsequently been put out for consultation by the PSNI. This EQIA identifies a number of major adverse impacts on equality from the use of the SBGs, particularly in relation to children and young people, and people with a disability. There is also a significant differential on grounds of community background, for which there is no explanation provided.
CAJ has responded to the EQIA consultation with a detailed submission. Given the adverse impacts identified (as set out above), our primary ask is that the PSNI discontinue the use the of spit and bite guards, in line with the Policing Board’s recommendation.
Our submission is available in full here.