Unlawful Use of Handcuffs in Suspected Drink Driving Situation

In the Case of DPP .v. Cullen decided by Judge Fennelly in the Supreme Court in February 2014, the Court ruled that in arresting a person for a criminal offence a Garda may only use such force as is reasonable in all the circumstances. In the Cullen case, after Mr Cullen was arrested for drunken driving, in Clonee Co. Meath he cooperated at all times with the Garda during his interaction with them before and after his arrest. It was likewise accepted by the Judge that Mr Cullen had not used or threatened to use force in order to avoid arrest nor was there anything in Mr Cullen’s conduct which might lead the Gardai to suspect that Mr Cullen might resist arrest until restrained.

The arresting Garda handcuffed Mr Cullen during the arrest without taking the above into account. The Supreme Court held that it was unlawful to place handcuffs on a suspect who was being arrested without the arresting Garda considering the context and in particular, the behaviour and demeanour of the individual being arrested. In all the circumstances of the case, the Supreme Court held that the arrest of Mr Cullen accompanied by handcuffing him was “quite unnecessary” and decided that Mr Cullen’s arrest was unlawful. Any procedure carried out after his arrest was likewise unlawful. The drunken driving charge therefore against Mr Cullen was dismissed and “he got off”.

It is important therefore for a Solicitor look at the circumstances of the Gardai arresting a person in any case but particularly in a drunken driving case where handcuffs are used.

We, in Bandon Solicitors recently fought such a case in the local District Court. This case is currently under appeal to the Circuit Court and in the meantime our client is still “on the road”.

Éamonn Fleming