Handcuffs Guidance (pdf)

The above link takes you to a pdf document on the “Guidance on the Use of Handcuffs”. This is included here for informational purposes. It is provided by ACPO – the Association of Chief Police Officers – as guidance for police officers on the street. It does not mean that they will necessarily stick to what is written – it is there as a guideline, not a rule, although there would usually have to be a good reason why an officer would not follow the guidelines.

An important part of the guidelines is stated in Section 2:

“Any intentional application of force to the person of another is an assault. The use of handcuffs amounts to such an assault and is unlawful unless it can be justified. Justification is achieved through establishing not only a legal right to use handcuffs, but also good objective grounds for doing so in order to show that what the officer of member of police staff did was a reasonable, necessary and proportionate use of force.”

“In considering what action is reasonable, an officer of member of police staff should apply the principles of the Conflict Management Model, especially the Impact Factors. Factors such as age and gender, respective size and apparent strength and fitness may or may not support the justification of using handcuffs, taking into account all the accompanying circumstances at the time. There must always be an objective bases for the decision to apply handcuffs.”

The guidelines state that the use of handcuffs should be seen as one of “many tactical options that may be available to staff” when trying to resolve an incident. If the police cannot justify their use of handcuffs, it could be classed as an assault as any intentional use of force against another person is an assault. To justify the use of handcuffs, someone would have to show that they had a legal right to use them and also establish good objective grounds for using them and that it was a reasonable, necessary and proportionate use of force. They should also be able to justify the length of time that the handcuffs were applied for. Many people making claims against the police for wrongful arrest also claim compensation for assault or battery due to the use of handcuffs during the arrest.

Factors such as the age and gender of a person being arrested, their respective size and apparent strength and fitness should be taken into account when the police decide whether or not to handcuff that person, along with the physical condition that the person is in. Other factors will also come into play – for example, the seriousness of the offence committed and if the person may be feeling a level of desperation to escape, whether the person has said or done anything to imply that they may try to escape or use violence and other factors that will be situation-dependent.

However, police often now say that “it’s routine” to place handcuffs on someone, regardless of how they are acting – people have been handcuffed when passively resisting (sitting or laying still during an arrest) with no implication that violence will be used or any attempt to escape will be made. If an arrest turns out to be unlawful, the arrestee may have an added claim against the police officers for assault if handcuffs were used.

Guidance on the handcuffing defendants in a court room