Britain’s Home Secretary Amber Rudd announced on Sunday new measures to curb the growing number of acid attacks. Her move follows a spate of five attacks within a 90-minute period towards the end of last week in London. Two teenage boys were arrested after those attacks, and one of them aged 16 has been charged with criminal offences. Rudd said victims and survivors will be at the centre of a new government strategy aimed at tackling the problem.
The announcement came as figures from the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) show that more than 400 acid or corrosive substance attacks were carried out in the six months up to April 2017 across police force areas in England and Wales. In most of the attacks bleach, ammonia and acid were the most commonly used substances. The proposed new measures will be outlined in the House of Commons on Monday by the Minister for Crime, Safeguarding and Vulnerability, Sarah Newton.
During the debate Labour MP Stephen Timms, will call for carrying acid to be made a crime, similar to carrying a knife. Home Secretary Rudd said: “It is vital that we do everything we can to prevent these sickening attacks happening in the first place. “We must also ensure that the police and other emergency services are able to respond as effectively as possible, that sentences reflect the seriousness of the offences and victims are given the immediate support they need.” As part of the action plan, the Crown Prosecution Service’s (CPS) guidance to prosecutors will be reviewed to classify acid and other corrosive substances as dangerous weapons.
New guidance will also be given to police officers on preventing attacks, including searching potential perpetrators for harmful substances. Further work will also take place with retailers to agree measures to restrict sales of acids and harmful substances. The Home Office said the measures will form part of a wide-ranging review of the law enforcement and criminal justice response, existing legislation, access to harmful products and the support offered to victims.
Assistant Chief Constable Rachel Kearton, national police spokesperson for corrosive attacks, said: “Police have dealt with a number of high-profile cases in recent months and we continue to collect data from police forces across England and Wales to understand the scale and extent of these attacks and develop our ability to support and protect victims.”
In the journal Scars, Burns & Healing published on Thursday, acid attack survivor Katie Piper said victims face a life sentence. In the article Piper said: “I will continue to need operations and therapy for life. For acid attack survivors, the aftermath is a life sentence.”