Queensland bans ‘inhuman’ spit hoods

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Queensland Police have banned the use of controversial burp hoods in guardhouses across the state, after a review.

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

The hoods, which are made of fabric and placed over an inmate’s head to prevent them from spitting or biting, are considered a potential choking hazard.

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

However, an estimate hearing in August was told they had only been used eight times since 2019 on minors — between the ages of 10 and 17 — with no data for adult use being disclosed.

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Greens MP Michael Berkman led the call for the ban to bring Queensland into line with most Australian jurisdictions.

“Queensland Police should be commended for scrapping these torture devices. The government must fulfill the commitment by banning them in legislation,” Mr Berkman told AAP.

“Despite the availability of obvious alternatives such as PPE, burp caps have been used in prisons and guard 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 guard houses where children as young as 10 are held in Queensland.”

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Police insisted that burp caps were “rarely used” and could only be fitted by trained personnel, with their use reported and monitored by senior officers.

The decision to discontinue the use of spithood followed extensive consultations with the Queensland Police Union, other jurisdictions and government agencies.

“The QPS is committed to improving our practices to ensure we provide quality police services to the community we are proud to serve,” the commissioner said in a statement Monday.

“We recognize that there is concern in the community about the use of safety hoods in police guardhouses and we have investigated the matter extensively before formally phasing out their use.”

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The commissioner said the guardhouse staff would now use alternative protection.

“The QPS will implement a number of security measures in guardhouses, including increased PPE, additional protective screens and a new operational skills training program for guardhouse personnel.”

The use of burp hoods and safety seats was described as “inhumane” by a 2017 royal commission for the protection and detention of children in the Northern Territory, which recommended ending their use.

The Northern Territory government is also reportedly considering alternatives to the use of burp hoods on juveniles in police custody.

South Australia imposed a ban on the use of burp hoods last November.

-MONKEY

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