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Spit hood ban rejected by both sides of politics

The Northern Territory ombudsman has recommended the government legislate a ban on the use spit hoods in both children and adults.

A legislated ban on using spit hoods on children in the Northern Territory has been rejected by both sides of parliament.

The NT ombudsman has released a final report on the controversial restraint devices, recommending the ban be written into law.

In his 140-page report, commissioner Peter Shoyer recommended the ban be extended to adults.

A 2016 Four Corners episode highlighted the danger of spit hoods on children, which were eventually banned in youth detention.

An operational ban on the devices in NT police watch houses was put in place last year.

The NT government has resisted calls to legislate the ban, arguing a "balance must be struck".

"We need to find that balance where we do protect people's human rights," Chief Minister Natasha Fyles said.

"But at the same time, ensure the frontline staff that are dealing with situations that potentially can be heightened also have protections in place."

NT Police Minister Kate Worden said the government would not go further with the ban on spit hoods, arguing it had reviewed the devices.

"Spit hoods are only to be used on adults in police watch houses in exceptional circumstances with mandatory reporting requirements," Ms Worden said.

"There are no plans to ban the use of spit hoods on adults in watch houses or bring in new spit hood legislation."

She said NT Police would work through the recommendations.

The ombudsman found of the 30 spit hood and emergency restraint chair uses in 2020/2021, more than 80 per cent involved Aboriginal children and more than half involved children who were intoxicated.

The amount of time the spit hood was worn ranged from one minute to 29 minutes, though for more than half of the incidents the time frame was not recorded.

Mr Shoyer said the risk of death and physical or psychological harm was confronting and the risks were not just applicable to children.

"It is clear there is considerable room for officers to improve their efforts at genuine communication with children," he said.

"The alternative protective measures and equipment are equally available for managing adults."

The first of 18 recommendations was that NT Police should exercise "patience, empathy and connection" as a routine first step in interaction with children and other community members.

The NT opposition also rejected the ombudsman's calls for a legislated ban for children and adults.

"Our policy is to give police the tools they need to keep themselves safe, including spit hoods," Opposition Leader Lia Finocchiaro said.

"If criminals don't want to wear one - don't spit at our cops."


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