Courtroom restraints discussed

Japanese lawyer Shun Tanaka (centre) visited Law Society House last week to discuss human rights issues. Photo: Geoff McLeod

The use of restraints in courtrooms was the topic of discussion when a member of the Osaka Bar Association visited the Queensland Law Society in Brisbane on Wednesday.

QLS President Rebecca Fogerty, CEO Matt Dunn, The Honourable Justice Peter Callaghan, Her Honour Chief Magistrate Janelle Brassington, His Honour Judge David Kent KC, Gilshenan & Luton Legal Practice Director Patrick Quinn met with Shun Tanaka, Attorney at Law at Elvis Law & Accounting Office in Japan.

The Bar Association and Human Rights Committee is examining the use of restraints on prisoners across jurisdictions.  In Japan, use of handcuffs and waist ropes is routine for Japanese defendants.  There are also differences in the use of bail powers between the two countries. 

Through an interpreter, he asked a series of questions about the trial system, detention/bail, the dock and equipment/facilities used in criminal cases.

Mr Tanaka shared information about the Japanese system at the meeting, saying there were some considerations made in jury trials.

“In Japan, when a defendant appears in court, he or she is handcuffed and tied with a waist rope. They are seen not only by the judge, prosecutor, defence counsel and other litigants, but also by bystanders,” he said.


“They are unlocked before the proceedings begin and are not handcuffed or lassoed during the proceedings. When the proceedings are over and the court leaves, they are again handcuffed and tied with a waist rope before leaving the courtroom. This is the general operation of criminal courts.

“In jury trials, certain considerations are made, such as the defendant entering and the handcuffs being removed before the judge enters, but the same is true of being seen in handcuffs and lanyard by the litigants.”

He said handcuffs were used if the inmate was likely to try to escape, commit injuries to themselves or others, or damage facilities. However, there were concerns around the violation of personal rights and neglecting the dignity of the individual.

Despite the main principle of the presumption of innocence in court, they are treated as if they are guilty,” he said.

“The accused and others who are presumed innocent are on equal footing with the prosecutor as one party to the criminal trial.

“However, if only the accused are handcuffed and tied with a waist rope, they can no longer be regarded as equals and the psychological state of the accused is affected, making it difficult for them to exercise their right to adequate defence.”

The law dragon gift.


Rebecca said the meeting was a collegiate and enjoyable experience for all and highlighted the value that came from cultivating interpersonal, cross-cultural communications. 

All attendees were delighted by Mr Tanaka’s gift of a plush toy “law dragon” – the mascot of the Osaka Bar Association.

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