Belt to restrain violent offenders

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The Independent Online

A British police force has become the first in Europe to acquire a tough US-style restraint belt to bind the legs and arms of violent offenders.

A British police force has become the first in Europe to acquire a tough US-style restraint belt to bind the legs and arms of violent offenders.

The high-tech "shackle" is made of strengthened fabric and has straps secured with Velcro, which fasten at the back of the body. Northamptonshire police said they intended using it because many prisoners lash out after they have been handcuffed, potentially causing officers and bystanders serious injury. The belts force detainees to walk slowly and awkwardly, and prevents them from kicking and punching.

They cost £60 each and have been widely used by forces in the US for more than a decade. They are employed by police and prison staff, as well as those working with mental health patients. Northamptonshire police are introducing them in the wake of a three-month trial last year. A survey in 1999 found that 45 prisoners and 36 officers had been injured in the area covered by the force, even though all the prisoners were handcuffed. Inspector Peter Boatman, the force's chief defensive tactics instructor and business development officer, chose the belt after touring Europe, Canada and the US in search of the most "safe, humane and effective" restraining equipment. He said the belt had proved "totally effective" and had not caused injuries to officers or prisoners. It had also been approved by medical and human rights experts, and no legal action had been taken against its use in 12 years in the US.

Senior officers in Northamptonshire believe the restraining belt will soon be adopted nationwide.

Insp Boatman said: "In the vast majority of cases, handcuffs are enough to stop an offender behaving violently, and the emergency response belt will only be used when deemed absolutely necessary. This is likely to be when an offender continues to hit out despite being hand-cuffed, thereby putting themselves, police officers and members of the public at risk."

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