ROD Hansen, Chief Constable of Gloucestershire Police, has praised the use of spit guards in the county following a demonstration today. 

Spit guards are made from a loose-fitting, lightweight mesh fabric and are placed over an offender’s face to prevent them spitting at officers.

They are only used in situations where the offender has already spat at an officer or is threatening to spit.

Already in use among 25 police forces across the country, they are now being used on trial basis in Gloucestershire.

The trial began on October 1 and Mr Hansen believes that so far only positives can be taken from the trial.

“Since the trial began there have only been four recorded incidents when a spit guard has been used,” said Mr Hansen.

“This is extremely positive in itself but when our officers have been forced to use them they have worked very well.

“Having spoken to several officers about the use of spit guards, many would say they are vital because they would rather be punched by an offender rather than spat at.

“It is possible to contract nasty diseases if someone spits blood and saliva in your face, such as hepatitis C, and that can cause huge psychological damage.

“The officer would have to go for testing and while they waited for results would not be able to be intimate with members of their family.”

Although spit guards are now in use at many constabularies across the country they remain controversial.

It has been suggested that they can cause panic particularly among people with mental health issues.

“Our officers have been highly trained under Article 3 of the Human Rights Act,” said Mr Hansen.

“Around 40 per cent of the people we arrest have issues with mental health and our officers are exceptional at identifying these problems.

“The spit guard is very easy to take off and if the officers can sense panic then the guard can be removed very quickly.

“Furthermore, offenders will never be left alone when wearing one.”

The trial is due to end on the March 15 and following that a decision will be made on whether to use the spit guards on a permanent basis.

Reporters were able to view the demonstration due to an invitation from Police and Crime Commissioner Martin Surl.