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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.

Are Handcuffs Illegal? (Qld)


In Queensland, handcuffs are classed as a “restricted item” under the Weapons Act 1990, and it is illegal to possess or acquire them without a reasonable excuse. The penalty is a maximum of 10 penalty units ($1334.50).

Restricted items

The Weapons Categories Regulation 1997 defines restricted items, which include “handcuffs, thumbcuffs or other similar restraints”. Other items in this category are:

  • nunchaku or kung-fu sticks;
  • batons;
  • studded gloves;
  • laser pointers;
  • replica firearms;
  • permanently inoperable weapons.

It is not a reasonable excuse to possess or acquire a restricted item for crowd or traffic control. Further, a security licence does not authorise a person to carry handcuffs.

The regulations state anyone who possesses a restricted item must store it in a locked container, and ensure it cannot be accessed by anyone not lawfully entitled to access it. The penalty is a maximum of 10 penalty units ($1334.50). When a person carries handcuffs, they must be fully concealed in a closed pouch, or the same penalty applies.

Reasonable excuse

The statute does not set out what constitutes a reasonable excuse in relation to possessing or acquiring handcuffs. However, this could include:

  • their use as a prop for a stage play;
  • when conducting official training in how to use them;
  • when they form part of an exhibition;
  • being a collector of antique handcuffs.

Use by police officers

Handcuffs are issued to Queensland police officers to be used to restrain and control a person safely and effectively. They can be used only when it is lawful to do so, such as when a person is threatening violence or showing an intention to escape custody.

When deciding whether to use them, a police officer must conduct a risk assessment considering factor such as:

  • the nature of the offence;
  • the behaviour of the person;
  • any previous attempts to escape;
  • any history of violence from the offender;
  • any other people in custody;
  • parity or disparity in the physique of the person and the officer;
  • the likelihood of injury to any party;
  • the person’s mental health, including incidents of self-harm;
  • a need to prevent escalation of an incident;
  • the circumstances and location of an incident.

The officer must be able to justify why their use was considered reasonably necessary.

When using handcuffs, a police officer should:

  • handcuff the person behind their back unless:
    • injury or deformity prevents this;
    • the journey for the person is considerable and handcuffing the person behind their back may create health and safety issues;
  • not handcuff themselves to the person;
  • not handcuff the person to a fixed object;
  • ensure the handcuffs are double-locked and checked after application;
  • ensure the handcuffs can be unlocked in an emergency.

The handcuffs must be carried in an approved pouch on a belt or vest, or in another approved method of carriage.

Flexible handcuffs (such as “zip tie” cuffs) can generally be used only by members of a Special Emergency Response Team or Public Safety Response Team.

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

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