New Clause 9 - Handcuffing

Serious Organised Crime and Police Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 6:45 pm on 18th January 2005.

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'In section 117 of PACE (power of constables to use reasonable force), at end insert—

''(2) Where any provision of this Act confers a power of arrest on a constable, the officer may on arrest secure the hands of the arrested person by handcuffing until such time as the constable has determined that the arrested person will not present a danger to himself or others, or seek to escape from lawful custody.

(3) Subsection (2) shall be without prejudice to any other power to use handcuffs on an arrested person (whether provided under this Act or otherwise).''.'.

Brought up, and read the First time.

Photo of Andrew Mitchell Andrew Mitchell Shadow Minister (Home Affairs)

I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

The new clause is very much a probing amendment. The Opposition are making the proposal on behalf of the Police Federation, and we shall be interested to hear what the Minister has to say on the subject. The purpose of the new clause is to allow a constable to secure the hands of an

''arrested person by handcuffing until such time as the constable has determined that the arrested person will not present a danger to himself or others, or seek to escape from lawful custody.''

Let me repeat that this is a probing amendment; we wish to find out what the Government think about the proposition.

As I understand it, police officers currently need to make an instantaneous assessment of risk before handcuffing detainees. While it is impossible to state definitively whether the murders of two police officers in recent months would have been prevented by such a measure, we believe that those tragedies give added credence to our call for the examination of this new clause.

In other parts of the world, the position on the use of handcuffs is very different. Police officers are encouraged automatically to handcuff in a more controlled environment, with a view to risk assessing the need to control an individual in that fashion. For instance, that allows officers to search a detained person for weapons. The point is important to the Police Federation, and I shall most grateful if the Minister can give her view on the merits or otherwise of the new clause.

Photo of Hazel Blears Hazel Blears Minister of State (Home Office) (Policing, Security and Community Safety), Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee

I entirely understand the concern of the Police Federation to ensure that police officers have sufficient powers to enable them to deal with some of the difficult situations that they face, often involving the apprehension of violent people. We do not believe, however, that the new clause is necessary, and we consider that the use of handcuffs should not be explicitly covered in primary legislation. Police officers have the power to use reasonable force. They sometimes have to make split second decisions about whether to use handcuffs, and such decisions should be covered properly in their training and risk assessment processes. The Association of Chief Police Officers has produced some very good guidance on the use of handcuffs, which sets out explicitly the process that officers should go through in considering what is   reasonable. I shall be happy to pass on to ACPO any concern that the hon. Gentleman wants to raise about the current guidance.

I do not believe that the new clause would offer any extra protection to officers effecting an arrest beyond that which is found in PACE. It would be inconsistent to include one kind of restraint in the Bill without then covering others, such as CS gas and batons in this case. Those are important matters, and I stress that I am keen for officers to have access to the full range of facilities to protect themselves in confrontational and violent situations.

We have guidance about reasonable force, and we have also talked a lot about policing by consent. Again, automatically resorting to handcuffs is not the right approach. The relationship between the police and the citizen is very important, and it is for police   officers to decide whether they need to use handcuffs at the moment in which they apprehend somebody. I reject the new clause on that basis, but that does not lessen my commitment to ensuring that police officers are fully and properly protected.

Photo of Andrew Mitchell Andrew Mitchell Shadow Minister (Home Affairs)

I am most grateful to the Minister for that elucidation. Those outside the House will read what she has said, and I will discuss it with them. She is right about the balance of power between the police officer and the citizen, and the use of handcuffs in that situation, so I accept her reasons for rejecting the new clause. On that basis, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the motion.

Motion and clause, by leave, withdrawn.

Further consideration adjourned.—[Mr. Heppell.]

Adjourned accordingly at six minutes to Seven o'clock till Thursday 20 January at ten minutes past Nine o'clock.