Front line police officers are now allowed to use spit guards when arresting violent suspects.

Spit guards are mesh hoods placed over a suspect’s head to prevent police officers being spat at or bitten – they were previously only used in custody suites.

Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick has always insisted spit guards should only be used in custody suites but today made a U-turn on the decision.

The decision came following a Met Police Federation survey showing 92 per cent of officers were in favour of carrying them.

Ms Dick said: “My role is to ensure officers have what they need to do their jobs effectively and safely. The announcements I have made to colleagues today are important issues that are intended to support officers and staff in keeping London safe.

“Officers in particular are tasked with responding to often dangerous situations and they need the protection to be able to do so safely, in order to protect the public victims and suspects.”

Spit guards have been seen as controversial by civil liberties groups who said they are degrading.

But Susan Hall, Conservative London Assembly Member, who has been campaigning for the use of spit guards for front line police officers, welcomed the move.

Ms Hall said: “This move will finally give our officers the same protection as the majority of officers across the country.

“It was grossly unfair that the Met police were not able to use spit guards while officers in neighbouring counties such as Essex were permitted to use the devices.”

Guidelines on the use of spit guards for frontline police officers is expected in the coming months.