An Aboriginal teenager in custody was subject to the “psychological torture” of a spit hood, it was revealed in the Guardian Australia today.
The incident came to light in a report tabled by the Victoria’s Commission for Children and Young People in Parliament last week. But when Victoria’s Commissioner for Children and Young People Liana Buchanan was asked by the National Indigenous Times if the device was used on an Aboriginal person she could not be drawn, citing confidentiality.
However, the Guardian Australia today revealed the hood was used on a teenager who was just 17 at the time. He also had his water switched off for 22 hours following the incident.
“It was ridiculing,” the teenager told the Guardian Australia, in a statement provided by his lawyer.
“It was dehumanising. It felt like psychological torture.”
The teenager, who went by the pseudonym DJ, had spent time in solitary confinement was still serving time in prison.
“It’s pretty obvious that they were just abusing me,” he said.
“It’s a breach of my human rights. They treat human rights like they’re some bendable rule.”
Buchanan said she was shocked by the incident.
“We like to think in Victoria that we avoid the very worst abuses of children in custody, that sometimes unfortunately we see in other parts of the country. This case unfortunately showed me that is not true,” she said.
Spit hoods are a controversial method of restraint to stop a person spitting or biting by placing a mesh bag over their head. The Australian Federal Police announced in April 2023 they would no longer use them, as the significant risks of injury or death outweighed their negligible benefit of protecting officers against being infected via an inmate’s blood or saliva.
Importantly, DJ says he never spat at guards.
However, such devices can cause serious injury or death, especially if they get clogged or are used along with serious restraint positions.
Speaking to PEDESTRIAN.TV, Ban Spit Hoods Coalition spokesperson Latoya Rule said the psychological impacts of those hooded can be distressing and long lasting.
“We are also concerned for children forced to bear witness to hooding of other children in custody, by adults who are tasked with child supervision, tormenting them,” she said.
“The thought of an adult hooding a child with a spit hood in any setting is disturbing, even more so when you consider ten year olds can be hooded at any time by grown adult officers.
“As in this case, spit hoods are being used as a type of punishment. You do not have to be spitting to be restrained with this archaic device.”
Although Federal Police announced an operational ban in April this year, Rule said they continued to call for a legislated ban, adding that “operational bans can not keep us safe from torture”.