Controversial spit hood use in Norfolk and Suffolk

10 April 2019, 07:37 | Updated: 10 April 2019, 07:40

Spit Guard - TVP

A Heart investigation has found police in Suffolk have used spit hoods on children as young as 14 with mental health issues.

The controversial masks are put over a suspect's head to stop them spitting.

Since 2014 they have been used 332 times across Norfolk and Suffolk.

146 of those occasions have involved people with mental health problems.

"If you're using it (a spithood) on someone that has a mental health condition, it seems to me quite likely the psychological impact of the device could well make their situation and their suffering worse," said Oliver Feeley-Sprague from Amnesty UK.

But the Chair of the Police Federation of England and Wales, John Apter, told us police don't have many options if they want to defend themselves.

"There's two issues for me here," he said.

"One is, what's the alternative?

"Police officers will have to go hands on and use more physical force - as in placing the individual to the ground - which could have another outcome which was less desirable."

Suffolk Police told Heart "spit and bite guards are currently available as an appropriate tactical option to give officers protection from spitting and reduce the worst effects of biting".