Politicians have backed calls for tougher sentences for those carrying acid after a recent spate of attacks across east London and other parts of the capital involving noxious substances.
East Ham MP Stephen Timms said carrying acid should be treated with the same level of seriousness as carrying a knife and called for tougher and more consistent sentences for those found guilty of attacks.
Mr Timms, who represents the Newham constituency of Beckton where an attack that left cousins Resham Khan and Jameel Muhktar with life-changing injuries made headlines in June, will also ask ministers to commit to reclassifying sulphuric acid as a “regulated substance” that requires a licence for purchase .
He will lead an adjournment debate on the subject in the House of Commons on Monday, July 17.
Mr Timms said: “At the moment, to be prosecuted for carrying acid it has to be proved you intended to do harm with it.
“Carrying acid ought to be an offence in itself unless you have a good reason why you need to do so. That’s the change that was made about knives, and it should be the same with acid.
“People who want to carry out violent crimes are thinking that carrying acid is less risky for them than carrying a knife or a gun. We need to make sure it is just as risky.
“At the moment you can just walk into a DIY shop and pick sulphuric acid off a shelf. That has to change, particularly when you look at some of the horrific injuries it can cause.”
He added: “I think the recent attacks, particularly that horrific attack in Beckton, has caused a huge surge of anxiety especially from Muslim women, but from others as well, about whether it is safe to walk the streets.
“The first responsibility of Government is to ensure it’s safe for people to go about their day-to-day lives. We have to make sure there is a change in the law so that people are safe.”
Mayor Of London Sadiq Khan has also called for a zero-tolerance approach to acid attacks, including tougher sentences for carrying acid, better sentencing guidelines for judges, a clampdown on the sale of corrosive substances and additional support for victims of attacks.
He said: “Acid attacks are callous and horrific and my thoughts are with all those affected. The emotional impacts of disfiguring and lifelong scarring are truly devastating for innocent victims.
“We need a new zero-tolerance approach as a country if we are able to rid the streets of this scourge.
“I am pleased the Home Secretary seems willing to take action and I urge her to change the law to recognise people are now carrying these dangerous substances with the intention of using them as an offensive weapon.
“I encourage all victims of this horrific crime to come forward and report them to the police so they can take action.”
Timeline of acid attacks in east London
- Wednesday, June 21: Resham Khan was celebrating her 21st birthday with her cousin Jameel Muhktar when acid was thrown through their car window as they sat in traffic in Tollgate Road, Beckton. Both cousins suffered life-changing injuries. John Tomlin from Canning Town has appeared in court charged with causing grievous bodily harm with intent
- Thursday, June 29: A noxious substance, believed to be bleach, was thrown in a man’s face before his car was stolen in Commercial Road, near to Watney Street
- Tuesday, July 4: A group of men attacked a 40-year-old woman and a 27-year-old man with acid in Burdett Road, Mile End. The man required hospital treatment.
- Thursday, July 13: Five acid attacks on moped drivers were carried out in 90 minutes in Haggerston, Shoreditch, Clapton, Stoke Newington and Islington. Two mopeds were stolen and a 24-year-old man suffered life-changing injuries. A 16-year-old boy has been charged with 15 offences including causing grievous bodily harm and robbery, and a 15-year-old has been released on police bail.
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