Move to put violent suspects in 'leg irons'

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HIGH-TECH "leg-irons" could soon be fitted on violent suspects arrested by the police, under plans being considered by chief constables.

Last week, police in Scotland called for the introduction of leg-restraints following concerns about the large number of injuries being caused during struggles in the back of panda cars and vans.

Next month, a police training expert will visit the American state of Louisiana to examine the use of leg-shackles as part of a research project for the Association of Chief Police Officers. Inspector Peter Boatman, of Northamptonshire police, said about 10 per cent of all cases in which force is used takes place in police vehicles.

"It can involving kicking officers, head-butting, biting, kicking windows out, and bashing windows with their heads," he said.

He said he was particularly interested in examining an American restraint device that is made of tough flexible material which is fitted above and below the knees, locking the legs together.

Prisoners are usually fitted with the restraint outside the police vehicle and are then lifted into it by the arresting officers.

Insp Boatman stressed that he was also looking at ways of improving vehicle design to reduce the number of injuries and improved restraint techniques.

Delegates at last week's Scottish Police Federation conference, which represents the rank-and-file officers, voted unanimously for a motion calling for the introduction of leg-restraints to control prisoners displaying symptoms of excited delirium or drug-induced psychosis.

Sgt James Bilsland, of Grampian police, said that "upper body restraint alone is inadequate - cuffs aren't enough ... We require further assistance in the form of lower body restraints. We want to avoid risks for prisoners and our members." And Insp Allan Todd, from Tayside, said a recent survey found that about half of his force's officers who suffered injuries on duty had been kicked while trying to restrain a suspect.

John Wadham, director of Liberty, the civil and legal rights organisation, cautioned yesterday: "The police are entitled to use reasonable force to detain people, but we would be opposed to the routine use of any kind of restraint."