12 Feb 2009

Waist restraints considered for prisoners in custody

6:51 pm on 12 February 2009

The Government is considering allowing police to use waist restraints on prisoners similar to those used by the Corrections Department.

Police Minister Judith Collins has asked officials to find out what law changes would be necessary.

Waist restraints were introduced to prison vans following the murder of Auckland teenager Liam Ashley while he was being transported to prison in 2006.

The restraints restrict the movement of arms and hands and reduce the risk of prisoners harming themselves or assaulting other prisoners or staff.

Following a spate of prisoner escapes from police custody, Ms Collins has asked police why they are not restraining prisoners in the same way as Corrections staff.

She expects a report from police within the next few weeks.

However, the Police Association says waist restraints for prisoners are not suitable for police use.

Association president Greg O'Connor says police need a more versatile restraint such as rigid handcuffs, which are more effective for the greater range of activities required of police.

Mr O'Connor says he is confident the minister will understand the association's opposition to using waist restraints.

Auckland defence lawyer Barry Hart says the restraints would expunge the few rights prisoners have left.

Mr Hart says police have enough power as it is and the fundamental rights of prisoners need to be considered.

Howard League for Penal Reform president Peter Williams says there are arguments in favour of restraints, providing they are used in a conscientious and fair manner.

He would not like to see any repetition of cases reported to him where drivers have driven at high speeds to deliberately cause discomfort to those strapped in the back of the vehicle.