UK among world's worst for acid attacks

7 December 2017, 16:22

The UK has one of the worst levels of recorded acid attacks in the world, police have revealed.

New statistics suggest there are now more than 800 reported attacks a year, but investigators believe the crime is under-reported.

Police say the public needs to understand the terrible impact of attacks which can kill or hideously maim victims for life.

The incidents dwarf official figures for India, where acid attacks have been a form of punishment and revenge for decades, though under-reporting is widespread there and elsewhere in South-East Asia.

Police and politicians are trying to understand the rise of attacks in Britain with two research studies, planned legislation and education initiatives.

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Assistant Chief Constable Rachel Kearton called for a new law to criminalise the carrying of corrosive substances to match knife laws.

And she urged scientists to develop a street testing kit for police officers who find suspicious liquids during stop and search operations.

ACC Kearton said: "We are talking low numbers, compared with the annual 32,000 knife attacks, but it is a worrying increase and we need to understand the reasons why.

"I fear it's a crime that is under-reported, often by people in a domestic situation who are afraid of reprisals, or young gang members who are worried about a comeback if they speak to police."

She is leading a study of victims and attackers on behalf of the National Police Chiefs Council. (NPCC)

The analysis will be published in the Spring and is expected to help shape new laws.

Carrying acid and corrosive substances, many of which are sold on the high street and in routine use in homes, is currently not a crime, unless police can prove an intention to use it in a crime.

Ms Kearton wants a new law to put the onus on the person carrying the substance to prove a legitimate use.

She said there were around 20 substances, from sulphuric acid to household bleach, that had been used in attacks.

Victims were largely men, aged 26 to 35, but evidence showed younger males were being targeted.

Acid and corrosive substances were being used in domestic violence, hate crime and robbery, mostly in urban areas but increasingly in rural settings.