In his capacity as chair of the Independent Custody Visiting Association, the Commissioner wrote to the Home Office, the Home Affairs Select Committee and local MPs to call for further scrutiny, research and guidance before the further roll out of spit guards to frontline officers.
Having served as a police officer, the Commissioner has experienced the vile act of spitting and biting first hand. The principle that police officers and staff should not be spat at is beyond dispute; but what remains open to question is whether spit guards are the best method through which to ensure that this is effectively and safely achieved.
Questions raised included:
•What alternatives are available?
•What measures are in place to ensure appropriate use with regards to vulnerable detainees?
•How should officers alter tactics between a detainee spitting at the point of arrest and a person spitting in custody?
•Why are different forces using different equipment?
•Could tougher sentencing be considered to act as a stronger deterrent to spitting?
•What do other organisations that face such a threat do?
•Why are spit guards not also used in the NHS, Prison Service or Europe?
The Commissioner backed the campaign for legislative change to make sex and relationship education compulsory in all schools in England.
Acting upon the advice of the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners (APCC) and others, Secretary of State for Education Justine Greening confirmed in March 2017 that this education will be put on a statutory footing by 2018.
Previously, schools that are not under local authority control - academies, free schools and private schools, of which Dorset has many - have not been obligated to teach sex and relationship education. Children attending schools that are under local authority control need only receive biology lessons to tick the box.
What this means in practice is that children’s conceptions of ‘normal’ relationships are being shaped, or perhaps misshaped, by what they experience at home, what they see online and what their peers deem to be acceptable.
This leaves children in a vulnerable position. Where child sexual abuse occurs, the perpetrators in 90% of cases are known to the victim and over half are family members.
The evidence demonstrates that pupils that receive PSHE lessons are more likely to report abuse and have consenting relationships. This is why we must do all we can to ensure children recognise inappropriate relationships as soon as they begin to develop and get the support and early intervention they need.