OFFICERS should be allowed to use their safety equipment to minimise the risk of injury to themselves and the public, Hampshire Police Federation has said.
Chair Zoë Wakefield was responding to a report by Unicef, which called for the use of spit guards and Taser to be banned on under 18s.
In a report, Unicef UK said the Government should prohibit their use on children and called on the Home Office to assess the reasons “for the disproportionate use of spit guards on BAME children in England”. It also recommended an increase in the age of criminal responsibility from 10 in England.
But Zoë said a distinction should be made between children and young adults. She explained: “I think when the word ‘children’ is used, many think of somebody under the age of 10. The cases that this report discusses don’t involve younger children but are teenagers who are likely to be the same size as adults.
“My view is this shouldn’t be about somebody’s age. If the child, young person or adult is displaying dangerous behaviour that requires us to consider using spit guards or Taser, then we should be able to use the equipment we have to minimise the risk of injury to everyone involved.
“I think in the majority of these cases, the ‘children’ are youths or teenagers, and action needs to be taken – for their own protection a lot of the time.”
Zoë added that it would also be logistically difficult to check whether someone was over 18 before deploying Taser. She said: “We’re not going to stop and ask somebody their age in the middle of a violent situation.”
Earlier this year, Leicestershire PC Maddie Hayes was attacked by a 16-year-old boy while she was handcuffing him. Maddie was left with severe injuries to her nose that required surgery, and she was on sick leave for three months.
A Home Office spokesperson said: “Police put themselves in harm’s way to defend us and the use of Taser and spit and bite guards provides officers with an important tactical option when facing potentially violent situations.
“We are clear that no one should be subject to use of force based on their race or ethnicity – it must be lawful, proportionate and necessary, and subject to proper scrutiny. Officers undergo comprehensive training to factor in potential vulnerabilities, and must take age and stature into account when assessing each situation.”