9 Oct 2013

Exclusive: Second police force used belt on faces

Home Affairs Correspondent

A second police force has been using a limb restraining belt on detainees’ faces, Channel 4 News can exclusively reveal.

The practice was criticised by the Association of Chief Police Officers on Tuesday.

On Monday, it emerged that an emergency response belt had been used by Devon and Cornwall police as a “spit/bite hood” on Thomas Orchard, a 32-year-old man who lost consciousness while in custody in Exeter last October and died a week later.

The cause of Mr Orchard’s death has not yet been established, but a short time later the Independent Police Complaints Commission wrote to every police force in England and Wales expressing concerns about the use of the belt in this way.

Criminal charges against some of the officers and police staff involved in his detention are now being considered by the Crown Prosecution Service.

It’s now emerged that Norfolk Constabulary has also used emergency response belts as “spit/bite hoods” in the past.

Tactic withdrawn

Channel 4 News has seen a Freedom of Information (FOI) document which reveals that the seven-inch wide canvas belt, with Velcro strapping, was used dozens of times around detainees’ faces over a two-year period.

Between November 2010 and November 2012 (when the tactic was stopped), the document details that the belt was used 83 times as a “spit/bite guard” (on 10 occasions in 2010; 33 in 2011; and 40 in 2012).

In a statement, Norfolk Constabulary told Channel 4 News: “Norfolk Constabulary did use the emergency response belt as a spit/bite guard without incident.

“Officers did receive training in accordance with the manufacturer’s manual.

“Official sanction of this tactic was withdrawn in Norfolk in November 2012 after receiving ACPO guidance.”