A POLICE chief has defended his constabulary’s use of spit hoods on children despite campaigners claiming they can cause “serious psychological suffering.”

West Mercia Police used the guards, which are placed over the head to prevent officers being spat at, three times on under 18s in the first three quarters of 2018/19.

But Louise King, director of Children’s Rights Alliance for England (CRAE), argues their use on children can be “traumatising.”

Chief Superintendent Kevin Purcell has reassured the public that the guards are simply to prevent his colleagues being spat at and officers are given “thorough training.”

Ch Supt Purcell said: “Police use breathable spit guards to prevent a person spitting at members of the public or officers.

“They are only used where individuals are spitting or are threatening to spit. Being spat at is not only deeply unpleasant, but it also poses the risk of spreading infection. Where required, officers and custody staff receive thorough training in the safe use of spit guards and they are only used as a last resort.”

Ch Supt Purcell said the three occasions the guards were used last year on children, were all teens aged 17.

He added: “All of our officers treat children as children and whenever possible avoid arrest and detention.

“The use of spit guards against under 18s in West Mercia is extremely rare and they are only used exceptional circumstances where there is no alternative for officers who need to protect themselves and members of the public.”

However, referring to their use on children, Ms King, also director of policy and campaigns at Just Kids Law, said:“Spit-hoods can cause serious psychological suffering as well as physical harm and even fatalities.

“Children have also told us how frightening and traumatising the threat of their use can be.”

Ms King believes usage against children should be prohibited.

“As an immediate first step, police regulations, training and guidance must be revised to ensure this equipment is only ever used as an absolute last resort when all other options have been exhausted.”

According to figures on the West Mercia Police website, the hoods have been used 93 times on people of all ages between January and September last year.

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