The legality of carrying pepper spray

| 27/04/2016

What’s the position on carrying pepper spray or other such small items (not guns) for personal protection in Cayman?

Auntie’s answer: This is a very interesting question, the answer to which I think could probably affect many people. I certainly understand the need to feel safe and to be able to protect yourself, but it would not be good to break the law while doing so.

I again consulted with the very helpful RCIPS to make sure there is no confusion, since it could lead to a dangerous situation.

Before we get into the specifics of the answer, a vital distinction that was pointed out is that intent is more important than the type of weapon used.

The Penal Code, Section 78(1) defines an offensive weapon as “any object made or adapted for use for causing injury to the person or intended by the person having it with him for such use by him”.

Just to make this perfectly clear, the RCIPS representative said, “The operative word is ‘intent’, which is embedded in the element of mens rea (the blameworthy state of mind of the individual).”

Furthermore, and this pertains directly to your question about pepper spray, the Penal Code defines a prohibited weapon as, apart from the various types of firearms, knives, crossbows (yes, it specifies crossbows) and assorted other awful-sounding things, “any weapon of any description or design, adapted for the discharge of any noxious liquid or gas”. Pepper spray clearly falls into that description.

To leave no doubt about what this means to someone carrying pepper spray or other items that can be described as a weapon under the Penal Code, with the intent to harm someone else, the police source explained that would be an offence under the law and if he or she actually injured another, that would be considered assault.

“The person would likely be investigated for possessing an offensive weapon and committing assault. The DPP (Director of Public Prosecutions) will then have to look at the nature and gravity of the incident to decide the appropriate action to be taken,” he added.

So, here is his simple advice: “To avoid being subjected to an investigation, do not carry around anything made or adapted for use for causing injury to another person.”

As your Auntie, I feel I must also caution that you never know who might get hold of your pepper spray or other similar item. Things can quickly backfire if they wind up in the wrong hands. And, even if they don’t, you will still be breaking the law if you carry them.

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Category: Ask Auntie

Comments (12)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    I have some “nuclear” scotch bonnets if any one wants them. Might be good to carry a few in your handbag ladies. Not a very good stand-off defense weapon though. I would love to see how a defense case would go if an assailant was fended off with a scotch bonnet pepper though.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Wasp spray can be purchased legally. Carry it for wasp defense. If you have the unanticipated need to shoot it in a muggers eyes, that’s his problem, not yours.

  3. Who knows says:

    Ok. So if i carried my pepper spray to defend myself from roaming vicious dogs while i am running during my exersice time and i just happen to use it to spray a mugger, would i be wrong.
    I didnt have it to spray people, only vicious dogs lose.

  4. Anonymous says:

    I could be wrong but my impression from what was said is, that if you’re carrying something that’s sole purpose is to cause harm (even if it’s in self defense) you can be charged. Now, if you defend yourself using something you’re wearing (belt buckle) or lucky enough to find while being attacked (rock) then it would be up to the courts to ‘prove without a doubt ‘ that you had those items in your possession just to cause harm…….. Having a hammer while out for a walk is harder to justify verse a huge keyring full of (nasty) i mean house, car keys etc., that you had to use to defend yourself would be different.

    While I understand the police just want to keep things, such as pepper spray out of the hands of criminals (despite the fact that criminals are getting these things anyway ….hello, they’re criminals!!); basically, we have to get smart with items we use to protect ourselves.

    How sad is it, when you’re the one who got attacked and you have to fight in court that you found the rock verse carrying it to cause harm……from someone that attacked you!!!!

  5. Anonymous says:

    By all Cayman news accounts lately crime is out of control here, and I am not permitted to protect myself against, for example, a mugger who threatens me with a gun or a machete? Ridiculous. What am I supposed to do in that moment of attack, since the police can’t be everywhere at once – just take it lying down? And instead of spending the resources prosecuting me for carrying what may be deemed an offensive weapon, go after that damn mugger!

    • Anonymous says:

      Finer points of law, intent, if you were attacked you could use anything to hand to defend yourself as long as you haven’t carried it with the intent of using it for that purpose. So if you were to pick up a rock or stick that should be OK, it you carried a knife for the purpose of self defense, not OK, if you need a knife for your daily activities, should be OK. I think the reason is so that the mugger can’t claim self-defense as the law works both ways.

  6. I won't be a victim. says:

    So what your telling me is that,

    I have a large western style belt buckle, that I wear with my pants. I also can use this to defend myself if someone attacks me. That was and is the reason I have it.

    So basically I am breaking the law because I wear a belt buckle?

    I also have a cow cod that I keep behind my truck seat for defensive purposes, like if some tried to rob me or hit me with something. So because I keep it for defensive purposes it is against the law.

    I saw a rock next to my truck at the grocery store yesterday. I figured that if I was being attacked by someone then I could get the rock and smack them in the head to stop them. So I left the rock right there where I could reach it quickly. Is the rock against the law.

    So tell me what keeps the criminals from carrying something they shouldn’t, other than the law, that ain’t working.

    Common sense tells people that if I want to rob someone I will pick the easiest target, hence someone who can’t fight back and not someone that will swipe me, or pepper spray me.

    Seems to me that the law is allowing the criminals to commit crime if they have the guts to disobey it because they know, physically, nothing will happen to them and they can physically hurt anyone they want.

    So it appears as if the “law” may be to blame for me getting injured during a crime committed by a criminal. I smell lawsuit.

    • Anonymous says:

      As I understand it, the law allows you to defend yourself. It also allows you to use a “weapon of opportunity” i.e. something around you that you pick up and use to defend yourself. So – the rock lying on the ground is totally legal, but if you pick it up and put it in your truck, with the intention of using it to defend yourself, then it COULD be illegal, depending on whether,in the actual event of an attack, you only use “reasonable force”. Now, in the event that you get prosecuted, it could take days or even weeks for a Court to decide whether what you did was reasonable – you may only have a couple of seconds. Make of that what you will!

    • Anonymous says:

      Whilst not trying to advocate breaking the law, if the intent of the item you are carrying has a legitimate purpose (aka belt), machete for gardening, baseball bat for recreational activities with the kids, bug spray for, well, bugs, I would guess you are OK, if you used your belt as a weapon and afterwards said to the Police you only wear it in case you are attacked, then you would be guilty in the eyes of the law, if you said you wear it to keep your pants up, you wouldn’t be guilty, i think. So back to the rock, if you pick it up with the intention of using it later, guilty, if you pick it up in self defense whilst being attacked, probably OK.

  7. Anonymous says:

    In other words, do not carry a hammer (you could bonk someone with it), a screwdriver (you cound stab someone with it), a pliers (you could pinch someone with it), a fire cracker (you could deafen someone with it), and certainly not mosquito spray (you could blind someone with it.) Enough said?

    • Anonymous says:

      Not necessarily because those have alternative uses and your intent is to use them for the primary use. You are either a construction worker or buying to fix things around you house.

      Pepper spray has only one use. Unless it is in the form of a socialized fancy salad container. At that point your original intent is to provide a gift or to consume healthy meals.

      Think outside the box here…