12 November 2020
The Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL) is again calling on An Garda Síochána to immediately end the use of spit hoods. The Northern Ireland Policing Board has today released a report calling for an end to their use by the PSNI. The Board has echoed many of ICCL’s concerns including that their use may constitute a form of inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment and that they should never be used on children.
Spit hoods are full mesh hoods that are placed through force over the entire head of a person already in Garda custody. An Garda Síochána conducted a review of the use of spit hoods to which ICCL contributed and which was due to be published in September. This report should be published immediately to ensure full transparency in Garda decision making on these controversial devices.
Since the start of the pandemic, spit hoods have been used by An Garda Síochána 118 times. Yesterday’s report by the Irish Policing Authority on Garda performance during Covid-19 states that they have been used 6 times on children under the age of 18, 16 times on people with obvious signs of a mental health issue and 74 times when the person was clearly intoxicated.
ICCL considers that the use of these hoods potentially constitutes cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment and this means that using spit hoods can never be acceptable. In other jurisdictions, there is evidence that their use has led not just to humiliation but also to deaths and suffocation.
ICCL’s director Liam Herrick said:
“The practice of hooding has no place in a modern police force, particularly one that is undergoing significant reform to place human rights at the centre of everything it does. Hooding has long been considered a form of inhuman treatment, and when other factors are in place, a form of torture. While Gardaí must be provided with proper PPE to protect them from the risk of contracting Covid-19, there is no evidence that hooding suspects provides such protection”.
The Northern Ireland Policing Board was also highly critical of the PSNI’s approach to policing Black Lives Matter protests. They highlight that no one should ever by criminalised for peacefully expressing their views in a democratic society and the right to protest must be taken into account in policing operations.
ICCL has repeatedly called on the Irish government to provide specific guidelines on the right to protest during this pandemic and we have called on the Gardaí fulfil their human rights duties by facilitating peaceful protest and counter protest in a consistent and fair manner.
We have previously expressed concern at reports that organisers of the Black Lives Matter protests in Dublin were being investigated and we call on the government to clarify that peaceful protesting can never be a criminal offence.
Mr Herrick added:
“The right to protest is a fundamental right and must be protected as far as possible even in a pandemic. Where protesters are exercising their right in a peaceful manner especially where they are making obvious efforts to follow public health guidelines, the Gardaí must facilitate such protests in a rights compliant manner. People should not be afraid of prosecution for protesting.”
NI Policing Board report can be found here: https://www.nipolicingboard.org.uk/
Policing Authority report here: https://www.policingauthority.ie/assets/uploads/documents/Report_on_Policing_Performance_by_the_Garda_S%C3%ADoch%C3%A1na_during_COVID-19_-_November_9th_2020.pdf
Find ICCL’s full submission on spit hoods to AGS 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:
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
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, Executive Director and Doireann Ansbro, Senior Research and Policy Officer
For media queries: Sinéad Nolan: email@example.com