The Northern Territory government has banned the use of spithoods on youths in police custody.

The move brings the NT into line with other jurisdictions across the nation, NT Minister for Police Kate Worden said on Friday.

The hoods will continue to be used on adults in watch houses when required and NT police will adopt a safer version of the device, she said.

Opposition Leader Lia Finocchiaro said the ban would lead to more police being spat on while on duty.

“It is a dark day for our police and another win for the lobby groups and criminals,” she said.

She said officers would now need to wear a full face mask to protect themselves from “phlegm and saliva”. 

“Spithoods are highly regulated and rarely used but are an important piece of protective equipment for both the police and the offender,” she said.

NT Council of Social Services chief executive Deborah Di Natale said it was a step in the right direction but the change needed to be legislated for children and adults.

“It is an inhumane and dangerous practice,” she said.

NT Police Association said it was concerned officers’ safety would be compromised by the change.

President Paul McCue said the hoods were employed as an option of last resort and police had a right to a safe workplace.

“Spitting is a vile and disgusting act that can have potentially life-long impacts on our members’ personal, professional and family life,” he said.

“Many of our members have said they would rather be punched in the face, than spat on.”

Mr McCue said the union had not been consulted about what PPE would be offered to its members and how it would impact their workplace.

The NT government in September increased the penalties for spitting on frontline workers.

The offence is now considered an aggravated assault and carries a sentence of up to 10 years in prison.

The Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance Northern Territory and the NT Police Force have been contacted for comment.