30 August 2020
The Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL) has made a detailed submission to An Garda Síochána ahead of Tuesday’s review by the force of its use of spit hoods. In it, ICCL says that human rights law on torture or other forms of cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment means that using spit hoods can never be acceptable and we call for their use to be ended.
ICCL also objects to the use of the term “anti-spit guard” by An Garda Síochána as it implies that spit hoods are a form of PPE, when in fact they are full hoods placed by force over a person’s head.
ICCL’s Executive Director Liam Herrick said:
“Hooding has long been considered by human rights bodies as a form of ill treatment and, when other factors are present, a form of torture. Spit hoods have been labelled barbaric and the EU has highlighted that they could cause suffocation. We remain seriously concerned that a spit hood was used on a child by An Garda Síochána.”
An Garda Síochána have said that spit hoods were brought in to deal with people who spit and/or cough at gardaí during the pandemic. Notwithstanding the understandable anxiety this must cause for frontline gardaí, there is no evidence to support the theory that spit hoods prevent the spread of COVID-19 or indeed other significant infectious diseases. A leading manufacturer of spit hoods has confirmed they do not provide effective protection against Covid-19. In fact, close contact is likely to occur while forcing a hood over a person’s head.
Separately, we note spitting is a form of assault and can be prosecuted. The Policing Authority has said that the use of spit hoods should be ended on 9 November when the current emergency legislation to deal with the pandemic is due for review.
As a statutory body, An Garda Síochána is obliged to carry out a human rights assessment of all new practices. ICCL questions whether such an assessment, or indeed any other assessment, was carried out before 16,000 spit hoods were ordered. We call on AGS to publish any assessments undertaken.
ICCL has written to the Garda Commissioner expressing our concerns about spit hoods twice. On both occasions we asked to see the evidence base proving the necessity for introducing spit hoods as a) a measure to prevent the spread of COVID-19 or b) a device for restraint. Given the high risk of excessive use of force in using spit hoods, as demonstrated in other jurisdictions where in some tragic cases their use has led to deaths in custody, we do not agree that using a hood can be a legitimate restraining device.
Find our full submission here: https://www.iccl.ie/wp-content/uploads/2020/08/ICCL-submission-to-An-Garda-Siochana-on-spit-hoods.pdf
ICCL and Amnesty letter to Garda Commissioner re spit hoods on 25 June 2020: https://www.iccl.ie/wp-content/uploads/2020/08/Joint-Amnesty-ICCL-letter-to-An-Garda-Siochana-on-spit-hoods.pdf
ICCL letter to Garda Commissioner re spit hoods on 30 March 2020: https://www.iccl.ie/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/ICCL-letter-to-Garda-Commissioner-re-spit-hoods.pdf
Regulation (EU) 2019/125 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 16 January 2019 concerning trade in certain goods which could be used for capital punishment, torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. Spit-hoods are supposed to be breathable, however, if the mesh becomes permeated, usually with spit, mucus, blood, and/or vomit, there is a risk of suffocation. As ‘such a hood covers the mouth and often also the nose, it presents an inherent risk of asphyxiation. If it is combined with restraints, such as handcuffs, there is also a risk of neck injury’… to mitigate against these risks … ‘exports of spit-hoods should therefore be controlled’.
The Irish Council for Civil Liberties is Ireland’s oldest independent human rights campaigning organisation. We monitor, educate and campaign to secure human rights for everyone in Ireland.
For comment: Liam Herrick and Doireann Ansbro.
For media queries: Sinéad Nolan: firstname.lastname@example.org 087 4157162