Wandering home alone in the dark after a night out, many people have at some stage asked themselves whether it would be a wise decision to carry pepper spray. The thought process is usually that this could be an item simply kept in a handbag, so that the person has the option of using it for self-defence if they are ever confronted and fear for their safety. “What could be the harm in that?”
Is it legal to carry or use pepper spray in Australia?
No. Carrying pepper spray is illegal in most Australian states, including NSW.
Schedule 1 of the Weapons Prohibition Act 1998 lists all items classified as prohibited weapons. This includes “any device designed or intended as a defence or anti-personnel spray and that is capable of discharging any irritant matter”.
Section 7(1) of the Weapons Prohibition Act 1998 states that “a person must not possess or use a prohibited weapon unless the person is authorised to do so by a permit”.
The only exception is in Western Australia, where pepper spray is classified as a controlled weapon rather than a prohibited weapon. This means that ownership is legal, but is restricted.
What are the potential penalties for using pepper spray?
The maximum penalty for possession or use of a prohibited weapon in NSW is 14 years imprisonment.
However, this type of offence is usually prosecuted in the local court where the maximum penalty is 2 years imprisonment.
The Australian Government Department of Home Affairs states that the potential penalties relating to pepper spray include: lose your goods, on the spot fine, prosecution and large financial penalties.
Is it legal for Police to use pepper spray?
The law states that pepper spray can legally be used with a permit. Permits are only issued for police/government use.