Pepper spray is considered a firearm in the UK, unlike other parts of Europe where it is common for women to take out small, discreet pepper sprays with them on nights out.
However, many new Glasgow University students are unaware of this. Gillian Merrian, a student from Germany, spoke to the Glasgow Guardian and said: “Friends take out pepper spray all the time, mostly in case they have to walk home alone and defend themselves. I had no idea it wasn’t legal here.”
QMU President Lauren Hinton commented on the incident and stated: “The policy at the QMU is to confiscate any pepper spray and then report this to the police. It is a shame to see students have their nights ruined for their lack of knowledge of the law and, at least in their eyes, just taking measures to feel safer. In the future I would hope to see students moving to Glasgow provided with information on the laws and policies that are likely to affect them.”
Over Freshers’ Week the Students’ Representative Council (SRC) issued a statement on the illegal status of pepper spray in the UK and stated on their Facebook page: “Pepper spray is a popular weapon of choice for those that wish to carry it for self defence purposes. However, in the UK - Pepper spray/CS Gas is considered a firearm and carries the same legal repercussions as carrying a gun does. If you are caught with pepper spray and/or import it, you will face arrest and a subsequent criminal record.”
They also reminded students that both the QMU and GUU would be conducting bag searches prior to entering either venue and stated: “With both unions conducting bag searches to help keep you safe in the venue we urge you please not to carry pepper spray. It is our duty to report it to the authorities if it is found on your possession.”
Anyone looking for more information about illegal contraband in the UK should go to http://www.hmrc.gov.uk/customs/banned-restricted.htm and for help on how to stay safe on nights out, Rape Crisis Scotland offer support and advice on their website www.rapecrisisscotland.org.uk