A WOMAN caught by police with pepper spray in her handbag claimed she kept the banned item as she was scared of dogs.

Patrycja Mucha walked from Oxford Crown Court yesterday with a conditional discharge hanging over her head.

The 22-year-old of Curtis Close, Watchfield, appeared for sentencing after admitting one count of possessing a weapon for the discharge of a noxious liquid.

The item she was caught with - while at a layby on the A420 - was pepper spray.

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Ingredients found inside the pepper spray were capsaicin, dihydro-capsaicin as well as a low level of pelargonic acid vanillylamide.

Outlining the case yesterday prosecutor Cathy Olliver said that police first saw Mucha's parked car at a layby on the A420 on January 7.

Inside was Mucha as well as two other males.

After smelling cannabis and seeing an item thrown out of the car officers became suspicious and the vehicle was searched.

Inside a handbag belonging to Mucha the pepper spray was discovered.

She was interviewed by police and she said she had the banned item because 'she had to make a lonely walk to work and was extremely scared for her safety.'

In mitigation it was revealed that this fear was in fact a fear of dogs which stemmed from a traumatic experience she suffered as a child.

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A report from the National Probation Service revealed that Mucha had initially brought the pepper spray with her to the UK when she arrived from her native Poland.

She carried the item because she was attacked by a canine when she was young and 'has always had a fear of dogs' as a result.

It was also noted that in Poland carrying the item was legal.

Defending, Richard Davies, said that his client was a young mother who was also working.

He added that she was of previous good character having committed no other offences.

Explaining the carrying of the weapon he said: "There is a small risk, but a risk, of dogs being in the area [near her work].

"Hence the reasons it is credible she had that item for that purpose.

"You have heard about her background; that she is a hard worker and full time mother, came to this country as a child."

Sentencing, Judge Nigel Daly said: "You had in your possession this spray, a pepper spray, from its packaging it is clear that its intended to deter dog attacks and the like.

"You have said that you suffered such an attack in Poland when you were fairly young and you used to carry this in Poland where it is legal.

"It is not legal in this country. You may not have known that but I am afraid ignorance of the law is no excuse."

He added that the offence carried a maximum penalty of 10 years prison.

Ultimately, she was handed a 12-month conditional discharge and must pay £425 court costs.