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Cops: Give women pepper spray

By NALINEE SEELAL Friday, February 21 2014

THE executive of the Police Social Welfare Association has recommended to Minister of National Security Gary Griffith that women be allowed to carry non-lethal devices such as pepper spray and beepers as personal protection for themselves and their children during the revelry of Carnival.

As it stands, personal protective devices such as pepper sprays, tasers and beepers are deemed illegal in this country. But the Association is advocating a legislative framework that is in step with the times so as to permit women to have non lethal equipment to protect themselves from human predators.

Association officials said during the reign of the Merry Monarch when people “free up themselves” and alcohol and other stimulants are in greater use, the risk of physical and sexual assault against women and children, greatly increases.

“Too often strategies for promoting public safety have been limited to activities of the protective services and other government agencies. But personal protective devices can empower people, especially women and help them to better protect themselves and their children which in turn will make the work of the protective services a bit more easier,” an Association source said.

The source added that given the current reality of crime especially sexual assault against females and children, it is necessary to expand the process of public safety by placing means of self defence into individual hands.

The source said the law should allow for the “discreet” equipping of persons in recognised “at risk groups” such as women including single parents and women who work at later hours.

Contacted for comment on the issue, Association president Ag Insp Anand Ramesar said, “The Association sees the empowering of women to better defend themselves from sexual predators and other criminals as an important step in ensuring a safer more confident citizenry.” Ramesar stressed that too often, strategies to reduce violent crimes and violence against women are characterised by a dependence on external assistance such as the police in a scenario of response after a crime is committed rather than direct preventative measures.

The availability of non lethal mechanisms such as beepers and pepper spray is definitely a positive step to empowering women and providing a non-lethal first line of defence, Ramesar said, stressing that such measures must be part of a holistic national crime fighting strategy.

Ramesar was supported by Association secretary Ag Insp Michael Seales who said women must be empowered rather than made to cower.

“What we are asking the Ministry to consider is that adjusting the laws to allow women to better defend themselves is one that will also empower them and is in line with crime-fighting strategies in first world countries. Any rejection of the association’s recommendation can be seen as a blow to the advancement of our country,” Seales said.

Sources said that legislation will have to be changed in the form of an amendment of the Firearms Act, Section 16.01, which currently makes it an offence to carry non-lethal personal protection devices.

Newsday understands the recommendation to amend the legislation was sent to Minister Griffith last Tuesday. Newsday also understands that a meeting was subsequently held between PSWA executives and Minister Griffith with the latter agreeing wholeheartedly with the recommendation and praising the Association for its forward thinking.

Ramesar said while the recommendation was forwarded for the Carnival period, he is hoping Government makes the legislation change permanent and part of national anti crime strategies.

Contacted for comment yesterday, Griffith said he agrees with the recommendation of the Association and said he will approach the relevant authorities to have the Firearms Act amended. He went further to say that the use of non-lethal personal protection devices may not necessarily be tailor-made only for women but for all law-abiding citizens.

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