Police officers in Dorset could soon be issued with spit guards to protect themselves from being spat at.

Police and Crime Commissioner Martyn Underhill met with the Police Federation of England and Wales representative for Dorset Simon Kempton and Chief Constable James Vaughan on Tuesday to discuss the plans for the first time.

At the meeting, Simon said that the number of spitting assaults on police officers increased by 500 per cent year on year and that the need for spit guards was becoming greater.

Speaking to the Echo, Simon said that spitting was an “insidious and disgusting” crime which can lead to months of anguish for the victims.

He added: "Spitting is insidious and degrading, our officers prefer to be punched rather than spat on.

"It is a very modest investment and by doing this we can show that we value our officers and staff and provide them with protection.

"I had a really good discussion with James and Martyn however some challenging questions were asked by both parties in relation to safety and the law."

Simon added that the total cost of implementation would be no more than £2,000 averaging to a cost of £1 per police officer.

Simon continued: "We hope that a decision can be made by Christmas which could then allow the guards to be introduced in the new year to coincide with the next officer training period."

The spit guards are made from a breathable material that goes over a suspect's head and contains a section that prevents the person from spitting.

When using a spit guard, the officer must explain the reasons for its use and will monitor the suspect at all times.

They will be required to maintain the dignity of the suspect throughout the process.

John Apter, chairman of the Police Federation of England and Wales who has been campaigning to get spit guards introduced across the UK said the move will "help protect our officers, they deserve nothing less."

Mr Apter added: "Being spat on is a vile and dangerous act which is a growing issue for our officers. Often it is not just saliva but blood that officers need protection from.

"These guards must be available to every officer across the country, they must have the equipment to protect themselves."

Currently, 36 forces across the country have spit guards with six yet to decide on whether to have them or not.

In a joint statement, a spokesman of behalf of Dorset Police and PCC Martyn Underhill confirmed that discussions had taken place.

They added: "Discussions are ongoing regarding introducing spit guards in Dorset and a decision is expected later in the year."

The spokesman said that no further comment would be made on the issue for now.