The Policing Authority has again criticised the use by gardaí of anti-spit hoods and reiterated its opposition to them.

In its latest report on Covid-19 policing published today, it also says their use on "vulnerable individuals" is of concern and it particularly opposes their use on children.

192 incidents of spitting or coughing at gardaí have been recorded since April, 48 of them since the authority's last report in July.

While anti-spit hoods have not been used on children since July, they have been used since April on people with perceived mental health issues.

The authority says that while the welfare of gardaí is a priority for the authority, there has been no evidence presented that anti-spit hoods provide effective protection for gardaí, particularly in regard to preventing the transmission of Covid-19.

The Policing Authority says it contacted the distributors directly who stated that anti-spit hoods had not been tested for their capacity to prevent airborne or respiratory droplets which spread Covid-19.

It also says there are many human rights concerns in relation to their use, specifically the right to human dignity, the right to life, the right not to be subject to torture, cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment, and the right to a private and family life, which encompasses the right to physical, moral and psychological integrity.

Furthermore, the use of anti-spit hoods on vulnerable individuals, it says, is an ongoing source of concern.

The authority also says it continues to condemn the verbal and physical attacks on members which are carried out by a small minority of the public.

Domestic violence and abuse

The authority's report is positive in relation to domestic violence and abuse policing, and says organisations dealing with victims have reported "a paradigm shift" in the Garda's approach to the crime.

The authority says victims of this type of crime now have greater confidence in the gardaí, in the safety measures outlined to them and greater confidence to report the crime.

This, the authority says, has resulted in high numbers of new victims coming forward.

The report says organisations working with victims say there has been "a greater and more nuanced understanding" among gardaí of the crime, an understanding that "there is no one type of victim or perpetrator" and improvements in the standards of statement-taking, greater communication and better follow-up.

One group, the report says, remarked that the gardaí were "knocking on the doors" where they knew abuse to be an issue and "reaching in" and then linking effectively with the support organisations in their area.

Chairman of the authority Bob Collins says organisations continue to be uniformly positive about Operation Faoiseamh, not just in terms of the additional resources put into this area of policing, but also the awareness and perceived improvements in practice within An Garda Síochána.

The report warns, however, that the key issue raised by the organisations working in this area is whether the effort, attention and focus on the policing of domestic abuse will diminish as the pandemic abates or whether the current approach will be normalised as policing as usual.