11 Oct 2013

Exclusive: third police force admits using belt on heads

Home Affairs Correspondent

A third UK police force admits the tactic of using restraining belts on the heads of detainees, Channel 4 News can exclusively reveal.

West Mercia police has now confirmed it used the emergency response belt as a spit/bite hood, although from January it has solely used it as a means to restrain limbs – its intended purpose.

It comes after Channel 4 News reported on 7 October that an emergency response belt (ERB) had been used by Devon and Cornwall police on Thomas Orchard, a 32-year-old man who lost consciousness while in custody in Exeter last October and died a week later.

On Wednesday, it emerged that Norfolk Constabulary has also used emergency response belts as “spit/bite hoods” in the past.

In a statement, the force said: “West Mercia Police has used the ERB restraint belt since 2004.

“Not all officers are authorised to use ERB however those officers who are authorised are given specialist training that previously included using the ERB on people in police custody who were spitting or biting.

“In November 2012, The IPCC contacted all police forces as part of a national alert raising concerns about the use of the ERB as a spit or bite hood. Following this correspondence an urgent review took place of tactics and training relating to the ERB.

“In January 2013 the decision was made to withdraw the tactic of using the ERB as a “spit hood” and all officers and staff were advised that it should no longer be used in this manner.

“The ERB continues to be used solely as a limb restraint.”

However, the force is unable at this stage to provide any data on how often the tactic of using restraining belts on the heads of detainees may have been used.