A businesswoman who sold illegal self-defense kits containing CS gas and a knife designed to protect women from potential attackers has been called ‘extremely naive’ by the judge presiding over her case.
Renea Thorn-Jones, 21, appeared at Manchester Crown Court after setting up an online business called Brat Boutique advertising self-defense kits for £11 which included a CS gas canister and a concealed knife stored in a key.
According to the Manchester Evening News, Thorn-Jones, from Wythenshawe, said she had spotted similar items for sale on a US website and considered them a “business opportunity”. However, she didn’t realize what she was doing was illegal and could land her in jail.
Manchester Crown Court heard she had sold around 20-30 of the kits, which she had advertised on Instagram, TikTok and YouTube alongside other items on her website, including pressed nails, eyelashes and readings from tarot. She earned around £300 selling the kits. Police were alerted by her website and officers arrested her at her home, where they discovered 60 “very dangerous and harmful” CS gas canisters and 25 knives concealed in keys.
Thorn-Jones said she got the items from a website in China and had them mailed to them, and she didn’t suspect what she was doing was illegal. She narrowly avoided jail after being sentenced to up to six years in prison, after a judge said Thorn-Jones had been “extremely naive” and had learned a “difficult lesson”.
“You honestly thought these kits would protect women,” Judge Sarah Johnston told her. “You deeply regret your naivety and stupidity.
“You yourself are troubled by the potential consequences of the sale of these items, and into whose hands they have now fallen.” Prosecutors said GMP was alerted on its website in August last year by the Metropolitan Police. Thorn-Jones appeared in a video on her YouTube channel titled “Not So Sweet Self-Defense Kit,” which has over 24,000 views.
She said the items, except CS gas, could be shipped worldwide. The police came to her home in October last year and arrested her.
She told officers she sold gasoline in an effort to help women fend off an attacker. Asked about the knives, she said she didn’t think they would be used as a weapon or fall into the wrong hands, prosecutor Gavin Howie said.
The court heard prosecutors did not know who she sold the self-defense kits to, and the judge urged police to investigate so the weapons could be recovered. Defending, Jeremy Barton said it “has to be believed” that Thorn-Jones “could be so naïve”, and she genuinely believed she was not acting illegally.
Mr Barton said she had donated some of the proceeds from her business to Hands Off, a charity which supports women who have been sexually assaulted. He said Thorn-Jones suffered from depression as a child and took counseling.
“She realizes how wrong what she did is, she is remorseful and abides by the law,” Mr Barton said. Judge Johnston told Thorn-Jones: “There is, in my view, a terrible irony that this endeavor represented a turning point in your life in that it gave you a sense of purpose and achievement, in a context of mental frailty, anxiety and depression, but has now resulted in you being here to be sentenced before me for very serious offences.”
Thorn-Jones had never been in trouble with the law before and his crimes were “totally irrelevant”, the judge said. She ruled it would be “arbitrary and disproportionate” to send Thorn-Jones to prison and instead handed him a two-year prison sentence, suspended for 18 months, as well as unpaid work.
“Your intention was to keep the women safe, in the absence of any knowledge that these items were illegal,” the judge said. Thorn-Jones, of Drake Avenue, Wythenshawe, pleaded guilty to possession of CS gas with intent to sell and possession of bladed items with intent to sell.