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).
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;
- 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.
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.