Legal Consequences of Carrying Pepper Spray in Australia
Walking alone to the home on a poorly lit road can give jitters to the strongest of us. If you live in a dodgy neighbourhood, you would face a considerable risk of getting attacked. And if something happens, you really can’t expect Batman or Superman to come to your rescue. That explains why you should arm yourself so that you can feel safe and secure when you go out alone at night. The question is how will you arm yourself? If you thought you can carry pepper spray, think again. It is illegal in most states of Australia including NSW. Pepper spray and mace are classified as prohibited weapons by Australian laws. Western Australia is the only exception where these are considered as controlled weapons. That means pepper spray is legal in Western Australia but it is restricted.
What are the consequences of carrying pepper spray?
In NSW, Section 7 of the Weapons Prohibition Act 1998 states that possessing or using a prohibited weapon is illegal unless you have a permit. A permit authorises the use of prohibited weapons for various purposes like training, sporting, or instructing. Historical or educational purposes may also authorise the use of such weapons. Permits are not normally issued to people who want to carry such items for recreational or personal security purposes.
The maximum penalty for possession or use of a prohibited weapon in NSW is 14 years imprisonment.
However, having pepper spray in your possession as a first offence is unlikely to attract a gaol sentence.
The list of items that are classified as prohibited weapons is given in Schedule 1 of the Act. Mace is included in this list. Any device that is capable of discharging any irritant matter in any matter is also included. In short, you can’t carry mace or pepper spray for personal security purposes in NSW. It should be noted that police officers can carry mace or pepper spray; however, they are required to use such devices appropriately and reasonably. Otherwise, they may face a reprimand and internal investigation.
Using mace or pepper spray
Possessing pepper spray is an offence. Using it is also an offence and amounts to the breach of the Act. So if you are charged with using mace or pepper spray, you face additional criminal charges.
Consider this situation. You are carrying pepper spray for your personal security and suddenly you are attacked by someone. You use the pepper spray to defend yourself. You can still get charged for possessing and using a prohibited weapon. You could even get charged for assault. Your lawyer can argue that you were acting in self-defence, and the prosecution has to negate this by proving that your actions were not the reasonable response. Even if your lawyer manages to defend you successfully, you still have to go through the ordeal of getting charged by police. There are severe penalties for using mace or pepper spray.
Unauthorised use or possession of pepper spray is an offence. If you get charged with this offence, you face trial in the district court. The maximum punishment is up to fourteen years of imprisonment for those charged on indictment.
However, this offence is usually prosecuted in a local court and the maximum penalty would be two years of imprisonment.
Keep in mind that there are serious legal consequences for carrying prohibited weapons like pepper spray. If you are worried that someone you know may attack you, you should consider getting an apprehended violence order against that person.