UK plans tougher penalties for acid attackers

Hauwa Abubakar, UK

The UK government says it is planning to classify acid and other substance attack as highly dangerous, hinting that offenders could get life sentences now.

Home Secretary Amber Rudd wrote in the Sunday Times that people who used acid and other substances on their victims as a weapon should “feel the full force of the law”.

“I am clear that life sentences must not be reserved for acid attack survivors,” she wrote.

It forms part of a new strategy to get tough on acid attacks in the aftermath of five acid assaults in London on Thursday.

Thursday assaults

On Thursday night, five acid attacks took place in north and east London within 90 minutes.

A 16-year old boy was arrested on Sunday in relation to the attack.

He is charged with 15 offences including grievous bodily harm and possession of an item to discharge a noxious substance, according to the Metropolitan police and would appear before Stratford youth court on Monday.

Earlier on Saturday, another boy, aged 15 was arrested in north London but was released on bail until early August the Guardian reported.

Five men, all of whom were riding a moped(a motorcycle that has bicycle features) were attacked on Thursday in London with corrosive substances in order to rob them of their vehicles.

One of them is Jared Hussein, a delivery driver for UberEats and his moped was stolen. Another man , 44 years old, was attacked in Islington, north London barely 20 minutes after the first attack but his moped was not stolen.

15 minutes later, another man was attacked with a substance tossed in his face in East London and within another 15 minutes, another man was attacked with a liquid sprayed on his face while he was sitting on his moped in traffic.

Tougher punishments

The Home Office said it will partner with police and the Ministry of Justice to assess whether courts should be given tougher powers to deal with offenders.

Already, possession of corrosive substances with the intention to do harm is treated as possession of an offensive weapon under the Prevention of Crime Act. However, It carries a four-year maximum penalty.

Under the new plan, Crown Prosecution Service’s guidance to prosecutors will be reviewed to make it clear that acid and other corrosive substances can be classed as dangerous not just offensive weapons.

There will also be a review of the terms that clarify what is required to prove intent.

The Poisons Act 1972 will be assessed as well to consider if it should cover more harmful substances including guidelines to restrict the sale of substances.

New guidance will also be issued to police officers on how to prevent attacks, searching potential attackers for harmful substances and responding to victims at the scene, local media ITV reported.

Figures from 39 forces in England and Wales indicated that more than 400 acid or corrosive substance attacks were carried out in the six months up to April 2017 with

Bleach, ammonia and acid being the most commonly used substances.