Two Independent senators yesterday urged Government to allow people to buy pepper spray without permits and remove bureaucratic measures to acquire it.
The opinions came from Independent senators Evans Welch and Deoroop Teemul during yesterday’s Senate debate on the Firearms Act amendment to facilitate pepper spray use.
The bill was passed with a vote of 22 for, no objections and two abstentions.
Calling for a better model, Welch said, “The Attorney General needs to wheel and come again.”
Welch, a former prosecutor recalled incidents where women were attacked and cited recent cases up to Andrea Bharatt.
“Something needs to be done here and now. It’s not enough that arrests are made. Even when justice is done it doesn’t restore life or repair psychological damage,” Welch added.
Since attacks occur away from law enforcement eyes, he said pepper spray may offer an opportunity for a victim to retaliate, jump out of a car or run. He said it does no permanent damage, but has a dramatic temporary effect.
But he said women may find bureaucratic requirements to get it too difficult.
Calling for it to be liberalized and to have certain toxicity levels, Welch said people 16 years and over should be allowed to buy it without a permit from the police, that it should be transferrable to others and that some should be prohibited from having it.
Offences should be created for spray misuse and it should have its own law, “The Pepper Spray Liberalisation Act.”
Senator Teemul said he echoed Welch’s views on onerous conditions to get the spray. He said the spray appeared easier for police to acquire. He expressed concern about possible human rights violations in the use of the spray by police regarding political or workers’ rallies. He said consultations weren’t held with human rights groups.
Teemul urged guidance for police to use it so the state may avoid the risk of compensation for those claiming pepper spray was improperly used on them. —Gail Alexander