There are several types of defence sprays that are legal to own and use. But, carrying and using CS spray in the UK is not a legal option to defend yourself from an attacker.
CS gets its name from the initials of its inventors 'Corson and Staughton'.
It combines a compound called o-chlorobenzylidine malononitrile (a white crystalline substance) and an inert solvent called methyl iso-butyl ketone (MiBK).
CS spray becomes most toxic when it gets expelled as a liquid jet from the canister. Upon contact with air, the CS compound suspended in the liquid part (MiBK) separates from the matrix liquid.
The law classifies any canister of any description, whether designed or adapted for the discharge of CS spray as a prohibited weapon.
Police officers receive proper and regular training in the use of CS spray. They can and will use it if they believe it to be appropriate. As a rule. this occurs most when officers feel that an offender poses a risk to themselves or to others nearby.
Yes it is illegal to sell CS spray because of its 'prohibited firearm' classification. Being found in possession of it can lead to a prison sentence between six (6) months and ten (10) years and a fine.
There are several immediate effects experienced if you get sprayed with CS compound, including:
Note: It can also cause the skin to redden and feel hot to the touch for up to one (1) hour. As a rule, the other common symptoms of CS spray will disappear after half an hour or so.
Bathing your face and your eyes in cool, clean running water will speed up the recovery process. But, you should consult your doctor if any of the symptoms persist.
Note: The compound can cause damage to certain kinds of contact lenses. It is best to consult an optician if you experience a problem with contacts.
Some police forces have started using a similar incapacitant spray called PAVA. They will dispense it in much the same way as CS - from a handheld canister in liquid form.
PAVA is very effective when sprayed into the eyes. It has a strong burning effect that lasts for about the same period. But, it does not share the other common side effects to any great degree.
In this case PAVA stands for Pelargonyl Vanillylamide (a synthetic pepper spray). It can affect the eyes which may cause them to close (causing severe pain). Some reports suggest the eye pain is greater than that caused by CS sprays.
The rate of effectiveness can diminish if the subject is under the influence of alcohol or other drugs. As a rule, an exposure to fresh moving air results in a significant recovery from the side effects of PAVA (20 to 30 minutes).
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Answers to Police Questions about CS Spray Laws in the United Kingdom