Let's assume that person A carries on themselves spices such as chilly, cayenne peppers, or something else of the same fiery disposition. Person A is attacked by person B. Let us further assume that person B is unarmed – no mêlée weapon or fire arm of any kind. During the struggle, person A uses said spice to harm (possibly permanently) person B.

Is there any case where this happened?

Would person A carrying spices as a weapon to use in self defence at risk of being prosecuted for assault? This source suggest that it might be seen as an offensive weapon.

This is based on a comments on martial arts.


3 Answers 3


The UK has particularly strong (indirect) restrictions on self defense. Askthe.police.uk appears to be an official police agency. As a police agency, they can only give their version of what the law is, but they could be mistaken. They say "The only fully legal self defence product at the moment is a rape alarm". This by itself does not mean that pepper spray and the like are definitively illegal:

There are other self defence products which claim to be legal (e.g. non toxic sprays), however, until a test case is brought before the court, we cannot confirm their legality or endorse them. If you purchase one you must be aware that if you are stopped by the police and have it in your possession there is always a possibility that you will be arrested and detained until the product, it's contents and legality can be verified.

One can infer that they somewhat disapprove of pepper spray:

There are products which squirt a relatively safe, brightly coloured dye (as opposed to a pepper spray). A properly designed product of this nature, used in the way it is intended, should not be able to cause an injury.

The underlying theory seems to be that the dye will frighten the assailant so it might be useful. Nevertheless, they do not fully endorse spray dye:

However, be aware that even a seemingly safe product, deliberately aimed and sprayed in someone's eyes, would become an offensive weapon because it would be used in a way that was intended to cause injury.

This underscores the point that "intent" determines the criminal nature of the act. If you accidentally spray a dye into someone's eyes, that probably would not make the thing an offensive weapon. Moreover, if at the moment of defending yourself with dye you intentionally spray it into someone eyes, that does not make it an offensive weapon (see below on per se offensive weapons). The difference between pepper spray and dye lies in the outcome that you expect, that pepper spray will cause actual and non-trivial physical discomfort, and it's foreseeability (the point of having pepper spray is to injure).

The police are not making any definitive "rulings" (only a court can make a ruling), and they warn

The above advice is given in good faith, you must make your own decision and this website cannot be held responsible for the consequences of the possession, use or misuse of any self defence product.

Possession of other weapons (mostly knives, also weapons for beating people) is more clearly illegal, due to numerous acts enacted by Parliament over the years. The gov't. prosecutor offers useful details on their (current) policies and the underlying laws. The underlying authority for these restrictions seems to be the Prevention of Crime Act, 1953, which outlaws having an offensive weapon in a public place, and an offense weapon is simply defined as

any article 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

A brick or an egg could be an "offensive weapon", if a person intends to use it to cause injury. It is more difficult to see how an egg could cause injury, but actual injury is not required under the law, only intent to injure. It is thus a bit surprising that the police would be so bold as to say that a "rape alarm" is fully legal, but this may refer to a specific thing, the "Personal Guardian", which silently notifies the police, and is not a loud whistle (which could injure a person).

Intent being crucial to the determination of "offensive weapon" status, CPS points out that

where a person uses an article offensively in a public place, the offensive use of the article is not conclusive of the question whether he had it with him as an offensive weapon within section 1(1) of the Prevention of Crime Act 1953.

If you use a chain or stick offensively, that does not establish that you had it with you as an offensive weapon. You crucially had to previously intend to use it as an offensive weapon: as they say:

Having an article innocently will be converted into having the article guiltily if an intent to use the article offensively is formed before the actual occasion to use violence has arisen.

There are a number of per se offensive weapons:

those made for causing injury to the person i.e. offensive per se. For examples of weapons that are offensive per se, see Criminal Justice Act 1988 (Offensive Weapons) Order 1988, (Stones 8-22745) and case law decisions. (Archbold 24-116). The Criminal Justice Act (1988) (Offensive Weapons) (Amendment) Order 2008 came into force on 6th April 2008 with the effect that a sword with a curved blade of 50cm or more (samurai sword), has been added to the schedule to the Criminal Justice Act 1988 (Offensive Weapons) Order 1988

but sticks and chains would not be included.

Spices are not likely to be shown to have a per se purpose of causing injury to others; but carrying pepper powder with the intent of throwing it in someone's eyes (for whatever reason) and thus injuring them fits the definition of "offensive weapon". Pepper spray even more clearly fits that definition (you don't use pepper spray in curry), and has resulted in arrests. In fact, the Firearms Act 1968 (S5) (b) specifically makes it illegal to possess

any weapon of whatever description designed or adapted for the discharge of any noxious liquid, gas or other thing


Carrying an object with intent to use it as a weapon, when such usage is not one of the exceptions in law, is illegal in some jurisdictions. Self-defense weapons are explicitly not an exception in many of them.

The person can be prosecuted for this alone, and it will make any actual assault that much worse (i.e. ".. with a weapon", raising the sentence from e.g. three years to five).


"Pepper spray" is a "weaponized" form of capsicum, which is presumably the chemical in the spices you enumerate that would have some effect in a defensive scenario.

Some states do have restrictions on the type and quantity of pepper spray that can be legally carried. Some municipalities have further restrictions on carrying such items. Violations of those laws do not depend on intent. (But note that in recent years these laws have been subject to frequent changes.)

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