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I've travelled London many times, and this is the first time I got robbed in broad daylight, in afternoon! Around four youth wearing masks brandished machetes, asked for my purse and everything in it. I surrendered. I was with my 5 y.o., and I didn't try to fight back. I lost my handbag, iPhone, convertible 2 in 1 laptop, wallet, £500 cash.

I reported to police, but they said they couldn't do anything. I didn't get a good look of these criminals, and I'm leaving London in a few days. CCTV can't see through masks.

closed as too broad by Chris H, user90371, Ali Awan, Danubian Sailor, CGCampbell Jul 28 at 2:31

Please edit the question to limit it to a specific problem with enough detail to identify an adequate answer. Avoid asking multiple distinct questions at once. See the How to Ask page for help clarifying this question. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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    You could have the strongest chemical spray known to man and trying to use it against 4 guys with machetes would not be a smart move. – The Photon Jul 27 at 2:15
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    Not carrying 4k£ of valuables is probably a much better “defense” than any kind of self-defense weapon. – Michael Jul 27 at 17:40
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    @ThePhoton Thanks, but I got that. I removed any reference to sprays in my question. I want to ask in general. – Tamara Milanovic Jul 27 at 21:35
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    If you were in the US, and you had, let's just say, ten handguns in your pockets, and you had, oh, let's say, an assault rifle, fully loaded, armed, cocked, safety off, and actually in your hands, ready to use ....... if you were attacked or confronted by four guys with machetes, you would not have the slightest, vaguest, chance of doing anything, at all. You did exactly the right thing. it is utterly inconceivable you could "defend yourself!" using "weapons!" against four machete men. Thank God, nothing bad happened. – Fattie Jul 27 at 21:43
  • Even with a gun, you'd be taking a big chance confronting 4 attackers with machetes. There isn't really any realistic way to defend yourself in that scenario, except give up your valuables, and hope their intention is really robbery and not murder. – The Photon Jul 27 at 21:49
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The link that you cite already states the law: Any “noxious substance” is illegal. So this is likely yucky stuff, but with no irritant. It may be disorienting for a moment, but I doubt it’ll incapacitate a determined attacker.

For practical advice: Don’t. Even if you were a trained officer, going against 4 armed attackers (or even 2) with just a can of pepper spray would be a recipe for disaster. To put it bluntly: You don’t want to anger a person with a knife if you can avoid it.

If you want to feel safer, I’d suggest you look for a reputable self defence class. I assume that there they can teach you how to escape or incapacitate someone if you can’t avoid the confrontation (also, if the spray is any good they’ll probably teach you how to actually use it).

Addition: This answer was to specifically address the legality of pepper spray substitutes (which was the gist of the original question). There is already a great answer on defensive weapons in general, so I'm not going to add to that.

Also, I did not want to suggest that self-defence training would have made a difference in your situation. No type of weapon or training would have.

You may happen to have everyday objects (e.g. an umbrella) that can be of some help against an assailant, even if not in that particular situation.

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    Also in a self defence class they won't tell you anything else but to surrender (or run away, if possible) to four guys with knifes… – elzell Jul 27 at 20:36
  • Thanks, but I got that. I removed any reference to sprays in my question. I want to ask in general. – Tamara Milanovic Jul 27 at 21:35
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    Yes, with as little as 20 years training, you'll be able to defend yourself easily. – Fattie Jul 27 at 21:37
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Carrying pepper spray around may get you into trouble with the law, it is probably illegal despite what vendors may tell you.


See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Self-defence_in_English_law

Self-defence in English law is a complete defence to all non-sexual offences involving the unlawful use of force (i.e. anything from battery to murder). In other words, it results in a charge if a death occurs because minimal force was not used. Generally speaking, the rationale is that the defendant is not guilty of the offence if murder doesn't occur.

and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Offensive_weapon

An offensive weapon is a tool made, adapted or intended for the purpose of inflicting mental or physical injury upon another person.

...

Under England/Wales' Prevention of Crime Act 1953, Section 1(1) states it is an offence to carry an offensive weapon on or about the person while in a public place

So far as I can tell, pepper spray is normally considered an offensive weapon.


In Are there any legal self defence products that I can buy? The UK police say

The only fully legal self defence product at the moment is a rape alarm.

...

There are other self defence products which claim to be legal (e.g. non toxic sprays), however, until a test case is brought before the court, we cannot confirm their legality or endorse them. If you purchase one you must be aware that if you are stopped by the police and have it in your possession there is always a possibility that you will be arrested and detained until the product, its contents and legality can be verified.

...

There are products which squirt a relatively safe, brightly coloured dye (as opposed to a pepper spray). A properly designed product of this nature, used in the way it is intended, should not be able to cause an injury. However, if injury does occur, this may be assault.

  • you must be aware that if you are stopped by the police and have it in your possession there is always a possibility that you will be arrested and detained until the product, its contents and legality can be verified. I was under the impression that stop and search is, on the whole, illegal in the UK. – Finn O'leary Jul 27 at 19:15
  • Thanks, but I got that. I removed any reference to sprays in my question. I want to ask in general. – Tamara Milanovic Jul 27 at 21:35
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    @FinnO'leary No, it's legal but the grounds are quite tightly drawn. However, a police officer may see the weapon (as it has to be easily to hand) and at that point you don't need to be searched, or there definitely is a specific thing to search for. – Andrew Leach Jul 27 at 23:40
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If you carry anything with the intention of using it against an assailant, it is a weapon. Even walking with your house keys in your hand with a key protruding from your fist.

  • How does this answer my question? This is pretty obvious. House keys can't usually serve as self-defense weapons. – Tamara Milanovic Jul 27 at 21:36
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    Keys have often been used as weapons. – Fattie Jul 27 at 21:37

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