Acid listed as ‘highly dangerous’ weapon in new sentencing advice
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Acid will be recognised as a “highly dangerous” weapon under new sentencing guidelines after skyrocketing attacks involving corrosive substances.
Advice to judges and magistrates on punishments for offenders convicted for either possessing or using knives and other weapons to make threats now makes specific reference to the deadly fluids.
The Sentencing Council today published official guidance to courts stating: “An offensive weapon is defined in legislation as ‘any article made or adapted for use for causing injury, or is intended by the person having it with him for such use’.
“A highly dangerous weapon is, therefore, a weapon, including a corrosive substance (such as acid), whose dangerous nature must be substantially above and beyond this.
“The court must determine whether the weapon is highly dangerous on the facts and circumstances of the case.”
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Newham is the acid attack capital of the UK, with Met Police figures recording 289 violent offences involving the deadly fluids between January 2015 and October 2017.
The rate of acid attacks was almost triple that of the next highest borough – Tower Hamlets, with 98 incidents.
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Victims include Resham Khan, an aspiring model who suffered brutal burns on her 21st birthday.
The horrific attack was one of 426 reported in London in the first 10 months of 2017, up from 260 in 2015.
East Ham MP Stephen Timms welcomed the new guidelines.
“I called last summer for a review, to deliver tougher and more consistent sentences for those convicted of acid attacks,” he said.
“I hope the announcement will help.”
The government should also commit to making carrying acid in the street an offence, and to ban unlicensed sales of sulphuric acid, he added.
Lyn Brown, MP for West Ham, agreed ministers “must do much more”.
“I have repeatedly called on the government to take swift action to prohibit unlicensed sales of dangerous corrosive substances and clarify the law so that perpetrators can be brought to justice,” she said.
“I share the view of Newham Council that voluntary schemes run by trading standards officers are not enough.”
The new guidelines come into force in England and Wales in June.
They do not apply to situations where acid, a knife or other offensive weapon is actually used to harm someone.