The use of tasers and spit-hoods on children in the UK should be banned, according to UNICEF. A spit-hood is a mesh bag, placed over the head of a detained individual by a police officer to stop them spiting or biting. The global humanitarian organization reports that police forces in the UK use them disproportionately on BAME children and the use of these tactics contravenes international children’s rights standards.
Between 2017 and 2018, BAME children accounted for almost three-quarters of spit hood use nationally by the Metropolitan police in London (73%). The Children’s Rights Alliance for England (CRAE) stated that this statistic ‘shows hugely disproportionate use of spit-hoods on BAME children given that they make up approximately 18 percent of the 10 to 17-year-old population.’
The latest statistics on police use of force, published by the Home Office for the period covering April 2018 to March 2019 showed that tasers were used 3,280 times against under-18-year-olds and used on children aged 11 or under on 29 occasions. In 2014, the UK government said that children would not be exempt from being subjected to taser if they posed a threat, despite concerns from the United Nations. In March 2020, the Home Office announced that police forces in England and Wales will receive £6.7m to purchase 8,155 tasers.
Unicef called for an increase in the age of criminal responsibility in England and Wales, just 10 years of age and one of the lowest in the world.
Anna Kettley, the deputy executive director of programs and advocacy at UNICEF UK, said the youth justice system was ‘failing in its duty to protect and uphold children’s human rights – to keep them safe and protect them from harm. We need a system that upholds their rights and gives every child who comes into contact with the law the opportunity to positively turn their life around’.