Restraint techniques lawful, according to Court of Appeal

The court of appeal has found that detainee custody officers who restrained a woman on-board an airplane while trying to remove her from the UK had acted lawfully.

R (on the application of FI) v Secretary of State for the Home Department [2014] EWCA Civ 1272, concerned the case of a woman referred to as FI, who In 2011 she was restrained by officers as they attempted to remove her from the UK.

In July 2008 a report by the National Offender Management Service (NOMS) recommended that control techniques needed to be developed for use in relation to detainees sitting on a plane.

Then, in 2010, detainee Jimmy Mubenga died of asphyxiation while under control and restraint (C&R) on board an aircraft, prompting another review to be carried out.

It concluded that current C&R guidelines provided a “safe system of restraint, provided it is not stretched outside its design specifications.”

Following this report NOMS recommended that a new system designed for restraining people on-board aircraft should be developed, which was put into place in March this year.

During her case, FI claimed that by failing to develop techniques for the use of C&R in an aircraft by February 2011, the Home Secretary had failed to properly regulate C&R, so as to minimise harm during such procedures.

She added that by failing to do this the UK had breached its obligations under Articles 2 and 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

FI separately argued that the redaction from public view of certain parts of the Use of Force Training Manual pertaining to methods of gaining control of a violent or recalcitrant prisoner was unlawful.

Having heard the evidence from both sides the Court of Appeal has held that the physical restraint of persons being removed from the UK by aircraft is subject to a sufficient framework of safeguards to fulfil the state’s obligations under Articles 2 and 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

And that the decision of the Home Secretary not to publish aspects of the applicable policy on the use of such control and restraint is lawful.

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