You have the right to remain…

Today I was told a story that got me rather intrigued – whilst this could be an urban legend, it posed some rather important questions!

“a man was arrested after his wife alleged that during intercourse she had been assaulted due to his hands having traces of capsicum on them, and parts of her anatomy suffered”

The above is a polite and censored version of the story, I’m sure for those who need to, you can fill in the blanks.

But whilst this story may be urban legend or simply scare mongering it does pose some questions, ones that after a few phone calls to some of the top defence solicitor firms in the UK, I’ve managed to put together an alibi!

The criminality would come down to intent. If you purposely applied capsicum to your hands, fingers or any other item for the purpose of causing harm, then the argument would be that of the intent to cause harm, which subject to perspective could be ABH (Actual Bodily Harm) or even GBH (Grievous Bodily Harm).

Whether intentional or reckless, the gravity of the injuries inflicted during the assault determines whether the Crown Prosecution Service proceeds to prosecute the case as common assault, ABH or GBH.

GBH is the most serious level of assault as the injuries are deemed to cause serious detriment to a victim’s health.

This may be:

  • Physically through wounding
  • Biologically through the transmission of disease
  • Psychologically if fear or paranoia are caused by the incident

The argument could be both for biological and psychological and therefore could be GBH, which could carry a maximum sentence of life imprisonment!

Pepper spray is almost completely banned in the UK. Its ownership, carry and use by common citizens is banned under Section 5(1)(b) of the Firearms Act 1968. Believe it or not, in the UK pepper spray / CS Gas is considered a firearm and carries the same legal penalties as carrying a gun does!

However, there are so-called “self-defence” spays that are legal in the UK. Often called “criminal identifier” sprays, they do not contain any noxious substances or chemicals and are not designed to injure or cause harm to others. Rather, the sprays are designed to mark an attacker with both a visible and invisible marker dye. The visible dye often takes at least 7 days to come off.

So with some chillies having more scovilles than pepper spray, not to mention 10m SHU plus extracts, what is the difference between them, well it’s down purely to the aforementioned intent. Not washing your hands enough after handling chillies, that’s an accident – rubbing chillies onto an apple with the intent to cause harm weather a joke or harmless prank, could land you in trouble!

But wait a cotton picking moment… TV chef Jamie Oliver confessed he’d rubbed extra-hot chillies on his young children’s food to punish them when ‘naughty’.

“Five minutes later she thought I had forgotten and I hadn’t. She asked for an apple. I cut it up into several pieces and rubbed it with Scotch Bonnet and it worked a treat. She ran up to mum and said, ‘This is peppery’. I was in the corner laughing. [Jools] said to me, ‘Don’t you ever do that again.”

Based on the law, this shows intent, intent to punish a child? Does it not?

I handle chillies everyday, and yes accidents happen and with all the funny stories that do accidentally happen – I’ll be making sure I wash my hands a little bit harder, because if the story is just an urban legend or an old wives tale there may still be a lesson here!