To maintain law and order, police officers are empowered to arrest those suspected to have committed an offence — or in the process of doing so.
In making an arrest, suspects are legally protected from the abuse of their fundamental human rights.
Section 34 of the 1999 constitution states that every individual is entitled to respect for human dignity and shall not be subjected to torture or degrading treatment.
This implies that any form of abuse during an arrest is antithetical to the dictates of the constitution.
However, there have been several reports of police officers violating the rights of suspects during and after arrest.
One of these reported violations is the unnecessary use of handcuffs and leg chains to restrain an individual.
What are the situations that allow a law enforcement officer to place a suspect in handcuffs?
THE POSITION OF THE LAW
The Administration of the Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) 2015 and Nigeria Police Act 2020 clearly provides that there should be “no unnecessary restraint” of arrested suspects.
Section 7 of the ACJA highlights when a suspect could be handcuffed and subjected to restraint.
The section states that “a suspect or defendant may not be handcuffed, bound or be subjected to restraint except:
“(a) there is reasonable apprehension of violence or an attempt to escape.
“(b) the restraint is considered necessary for the safety of the suspect or defendant, or
“(c) by order of a court.”
This implies that it is unlawful for police or other law enforcement officers to use handcuffs or any other restraining devices/methods on a suspect if he or she voluntarily submits for arrest without resorting to any form of violence.
However, when the safety of the suspect or the accused cannot be guaranteed, the police officer can subject the individual to handcuffs.