Legislation for pepper spray has been introduced to the Senate as an amendment to the Firearms Act.
Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi, who returned to the Senate after being in isolation since April 27, piloted the Firearms Amendment Bill 2021 on Tuesday.
Al-Rawi said the bill would amend the Firearms Act, Chapter 16:01 to define pepper spray as “any inflammatory agent which when applied on the body of an individual may cause the mucous membranes in the eyes, nose, throat and lungs of the individual to become inflamed resulting in the immediate closing of the eyes, difficulty breathing, runny nose, and coughing.”
He said the minister can by order approve the type, strength and volume of pepper spray permitted in a canister under the Firearms Act or the purposes of manufacture, production, importation, exportation, diversion, sale or distribution of pepper spray.
He said Acts which would be affected by these amendments would include the Offences Against the Person Act, the Dangerous Drugs Act, the Domestic Violence Act, the Children’s Act, among others.
Under the amended Act, a new subsection would allow Estate Police, Special Reserve Officers, Municipal Police Officers and other people as approved by the Minister to have pepper spray in their possession when performing their functions.
Al-Rawi said the Police Commissioner, or an officer authorised by him would be able to issue a pepper spray import permit or a pepper spray permit if an applicant had a good reason for wanting the permit. He said they could refuse to issue the permit if the applicant had intemperate habits or an unsound mind. He said people would be able to appeal the refusal.
He said his ministry had received recommendations from the Office of Law Enforcement Policy (OLEP) as to tolerable levels of capsaicin based on the Scoville heat index. He said as scorpion pepper is grown in TT, eventually he hoped TT could manufacture its own pepper spray.
“When someone wants to apply for a pepper spray permit, they would go to a police station and fill out a form. A preliminary form of checking is done, and the person is asked to swear that they are telling the truth on the form. If they are found to be lying, they will be guilty of a criminal offence punishable with a fine and imprisonment on summary conviction or on conviction on indictment.
Once the permit is granted, they present it wherever the spray is being dispensed. This separates the permission giver from the person who sells it. The form is intended to be very simple with no bureaucracy involved. Applicants can be 18 and above, or 16 and above with their parent’s or guardian’s permission. The application fee would be $50. Authorised people will be able to use pepper spray only for self-defence.”
Al-Rawi said the amendments also provide for the Commissioner of Police to establish a pepper spray register which will keep track of permits issued, as well as to clean up the firearms register. He said any pepper spray not approved by the minister would be classified as a prohibited weapon. He said there would be a six-month transitional period which allows people who have pepper spray to apply for a pepper spray permit.
He said the Act would prohibit persons who are charged or convicted with serious criminal offences as specified in Schedule II of the Act, Part II of the Bail Act and the Domestic Violence Act from obtaining a pepper spray import permit or pepper spray permit.
He said anyone in this prohibited class who is found with pepper spray in their possession may potentially be sanctioned, if convicted, with a significantly heftier fine and imprisonment.
Also prohibited would be people charged or convicted with certain offences under the Offences Against the Person Act, the Larceny Act, the Kidnapping Act, the Trafficking in Persons Act, the Children Act and the Trespass Act.