Dementia-suffering woman, 91, 'handcuffed, hooded and strapped down by Met police'

31 May 2023, 07:03 | Updated: 31 May 2023, 07:06

Nick Ferrari Wears Spit Hood During Tetchy Question On Police Use

EJ Ward

By EJ Ward

Police handcuffed and placed a spit hood over the head of a dementia sufferer in her 90s in south London.

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In 2018 Nick Ferrari interviewed the, then, Met Police Commissioner while wearing a spit hood after a caller asked why officers weren't allowed to use them on suspects.

The caller William, a serving police officer, was frustrated that they are not permitted to use the spit hoods, which stop a person spitting at police, unless they are in custody.

Nick agreed with the officer - and put one of the hoods over his head to show that they are not uncomfortable to wear. He told Cressida Dick: "I'm going to conduct this interview while wearing a spit hood. I'm able to continue my duties, even read my documents while we talk."

Read more: Nick Ferrari Wears Spit Hood During Fiery Interview With Met Police Commissioner

5 Metropolitan Police officers have been suspended or put on restricted duty
5 Metropolitan Police officers have been suspended or put on restricted duty. Picture: Alamy

The incident took place in Peckham on May 9, after police were called out to a disturbance between a woman and her carer.

One officer claimed they were spat on by the woman. They said this led them using extra restraints on the woman, who they later took to hospital and was not arrested. Officers also aimed a taser at the woman, but did not use it.

A former senior Met police officer said he didn't understand why such force had to be used on a clearly vulnerable, elderly woman - adding that the restraint could have been fatal.

The Met has referred itself to police watchdog the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC). One officer has been suspended and five are on restricted duties while the IOPC investigation is carried out.

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Nick Tries On Controversial Spit Hood

Describing the scene, one neighbour told the Sun: "I could hear her crying and screaming. I looked out my window and could see they had her strapped down on a stretcher - it was awful.

"There were two police cars and a van - you would think with all those people they would be able to manage it without tying her down."

Read more: Met Police to stop attending emergency calls linked to mental health in bid to 'focus on crime'

Read more: Ex-Met PC dubbed 'officer naughty' found guilty of gross misconduct following Wayne Couzens flashing probe

Former Met commander John O’ Connor said: "It is absolutely shocking. The officers could easily have killed her with this heavy-handed treatment.

"This was a very aggressive way to treat a 91-year-old woman who was clearly very distressed.

The incident took place in Peckham, in south London
The incident took place in Peckham, in south London. Picture: Alamy

“What possible threat could this very old lady have posed to these much younger police officers? It is beyond comprehension.

"To handcuff and place a spit hood on her like that and then red dot her with a Taser is absolutely appalling."

Mr O’Connor added: “This should have been dealt with as a medical matter by professionals who knew what they were doing.

"The officers clearly had no idea how to deal with this distressed elderly woman and have used extreme measures instead of a gentler approach.

“This kind of action can kill an old person. The officers should never have used this equipment on a 91-year-old. They have let themselves and their uniform down. It’s a shameful way to treat someone so vulnerable."

The Met Police said: “The Independent Office for Police Conduct are independently investigating an incident where an elderly woman was restrained by officers in Southwark.

"The Met’s Directorate of Professional Standards (DPS) made a voluntary referral to the IOPC as soon as they were made aware of the incident.’’

Addressing the incident itself, the force said: “On Tuesday, 9 May officers were called to an address in SE15 following reports of a disturbance between a woman and her carer.

"Officers attended and identified a 91-year-old lady who was distressed.

"After officers attempted to engage with her, she was restrained using handcuffs and a spit hood applied after it was alleged one officer was spat at.

"The woman was then taken to hospital. She was not arrested.

"During the course of the incident, an officer issued a red-dot challenge with their Taser but did not discharge it.

"Following an initial assessment by the DPS, one officer has been suspended and their use of Taser withdrawn.

"A further five officers have been placed on restricted duties, meaning they will have no contact with the public, while the incident is investigated. The woman’s family are aware of the incident.

"Police are in contact with them and arranged for a family member to view body-worn video of the incident."

Spit guards have been controversial since the Met started using them in 2016. The police union backed their use as a way of keeping officers safe - but civil liberties groups said they were a heavy-handed method of restraint, and linked to deaths in police custody.

Met bosses said in 2018 they would stop officers from using them on the 'front line' but this was reversed in 2019.

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