Handbook on Handcuffs: Limiting the use of restraints in the courtroom

Article by Fair Trials

Fair Trials’ Senior Legal Advisor Veronica Hinestroza recently spoke at the launch of The Handbook on Handcuffs, a new guide from Conselho Nacional de Justiça, UNODC and UNDP, in partnership with Omega Research Foundation. The handbook aims to limit the use of handcuffs and other instruments of restraint in the courtroom, emphasising how their use relates to and undermines the presumption of innocence.

Any person accused of committing a crime is to be presumed innocent until they are proven guilty and this guarantee should begin long before the start of a trial. However, many factors can fracture this, including but not limited to the use of restraints in the courtroom.

At the launch, Veronica said, “It is crucial to understand that the unjustified presentation in court of suspects in instruments of restraint can affect the equality of arms, cause irreversible damage to a suspect’s reputation, lead to inferring that the accused is dangerous, inducing fear, and ultimately impacting the judgments about a person’s guilt or innocence.”

The Handbook on Handcuffs leads users in a fluid and didactic way into understanding the relationship between the use of handcuffs (and other instruments of restraint) in court. It emphasises how the independence and legitimacy of the justice system can be undermined when judges delegate the decision on the use of instruments of restraint to security officers. It also provides, drawing on the expertise of the Omega Research Foundation, insight into the characteristics of the different instruments of restraint commonly used today, and the harm they can cause if abused.

Fair Trials welcomes the handbook’s numerous references to our 2019 report ‘Innocent Until Proven Guilty’, which seeks to identify key threats to the presumption of innocence resulting from how suspects are presented in public.

Read The Handbook on Handcuffs here in English and in Portuguese.

Watch a recording of the launch and Veronica’s presentation in English here.