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Are Handcuffs Illegal?

In New South Wales, handcuffs are classed as prohibited weapons, and it is illegal to possess them without a permit. Their use is regulated by the Weapons Prohibition Act 1998 NSW and the Weapons Prohibition Regulation 2017 NSW.


Schedule 1 clause 4(2) of the Act defines handcuffs (including thumb and leg cuffs) as:

“a set of ring-shaped shackles of any material (and connected by any means) that are designed to be worn on the wrists, thumbs or ankles (as the case requires), but not including—

(a)  antique handcuffs, or

(b)  handcuffs produced and identified as children’s toys, or

(c)  handcuffs that are designed to be released by the wearer (such as handcuffs used in theatrical productions).”

Permit required

Under Section 8(1) a permit is needed to possess or use a prohibited weapon, with permits divided into three categories: general, weapons dealer and theatrical weapons armourer.

An example of a general permit is one issued to a security firm, which may need to buy, possess and use handcuffs in approved security activities. Such activities include patrolling, protecting, watching or guarding cash or infrastructure such as airports. It is illegal for handcuffs to be carried by security officers when conducting crowd control, private investigations or debt collections. The security firm would need to provide evidence of safety training for handcuffs before a permit was issued.

A weapons dealer permit allows the holder to possess, buy sell and make prohibited weapons, but only in the course of carrying on a business and at a specified location.

A theatrical weapons armourer permit allows the holder to possess, use, buy, sell and make prohibited weapons, as well as supervise and train people in film, television or theatre in how to use them.

Permit decisions

Under Section 10, in deciding to grant a permit, the Commissioner must be satisfied the applicant:

  • “is a fit and proper person and can be trusted to have possession of prohibited weapons without danger to public safety or to the peace”;
  • has completed appropriate training and safety courses;
  • can meet storage and safety requirements.

A permit must not be issued to a person who:

  • has been convicted of certain offences within the past 10 years;
  • is or has been subject to an apprehended violence order within the past 10 years;
  • is subject to a good behaviour bond, community correction order, conditional release or weapons prohibition order;
  • is a registrable person under the Child Protection (Offenders Registration) Act 2000.
  • the Commissioner deems a risk to public safety.

Possession of handcuffs illegal without a genuine reason

Under Section 11, an applicant needs to have a genuine reason for possessing or using the prohibited weapon. Those reasons include for recreation/sport, business/employment, animal management, or a weapons collection.

A permit is issued for a maximum five years and requires payment of a fee of $127.

It is illegal for a person to buy or sell handcuffs unless they have a permit. A seller needs to have seen a buyer’s permit or know the buyer is an authorised weapons dealer before making a sale.

Permit cancelled

Under Section 18, the Commissioner can suspend or revoke a permit for several reasons, including if the permit holder:

  • is charged with a domestic violence offence;
  • becomes the subject of an apprehended violence order or weapons prohibition order;
  • supplied false or misleading information in their permit application;
  • is no longer considered by the Commissioner to be a fit and proper person to hold a permit.

Safekeeping of handcuffs

A person who possesses handcuffs make take all reasonable precautions to ensure they are kept safely, they are not lost or stolen, and they do not come into the possession of an unauthorised person.


Unauthorised possession or use of prohibited weapon carries a maximum penalty of 14 years jail.

Under Section 7 a person will also be guilty of an offence if they possess or use a prohibited weapon for a purpose contrary to the genuine reason for possessing or using it, or if they contravene any condition of the permit.

For advice on any legal matter, please contact Armstrong Legal.

Sally Crosswell

This article was written by Sally Crosswell

Sally Crosswell has a Bachelor of Laws (Hons), a Bachelor of Communication and a Master of International and Community Development. She also completed a Graduate Diploma of Legal Practice at the College of Law. A former journalist, Sally has a keen interest in human rights law.

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