Schoolgirl sold corrosive bleach by three shops in undercover operation

Stores across Newham have promised not to sell corrosive substances to under 21s without proof of ID

Stores across Newham have promised not to sell corrosive substances to under 21s without proof of ID. Picture: Rhiannon Long - Credit: Archant

A 14-year-old girl was sold corrosive bleach at three shops in Newham, despite them having pledged not to sell to under 21s.

In an operation between the Met Police and Newham Council on Friday, she attempted to buy bleach at five shops across the borough.

In two shops she was refused outright, but three sold her corrosive bleach without asking for proof of age.

The trading standards officer who accompanied the operation went into the shops after the purchase was made to question why the teenager had been able to buy bleach.

Two shopkeepers said they didn’t understand that bleach was one of the hazardous substances requiring ID to buy, despite hazard warning labels on the bottle. One simply said he’d “forgotten” that he’d pledged to enforce the rule.

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A council spokeswoman said: “They were all given information packs when they signed up to the promise. It was clear from that information that bleach was included in the corrosive substances.

“Until the government changes the law we are unable to take any further action. It is imperative that the government introduces legislation urgently to ban the sale of corrosive substances to under 21s and introduce of a new offense for the possession of corrosive products.”

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Police are currently able to to stop and search people where officers have “reasonable grounds for suspecting they are in possession of it as an offensive weapon, this includes a corrosive substance,” meaning there must be reason to suspect they intend on using it as a weapon.

Acid attack statistics used by the media refer to both physical attacks and possession of corrosive substances without having used them.

In 2017 police recorded 85 acid attacks in Newham – as well as 43 counts of possession.

Mayor of Newham Sir Robin Wales said: “There is no reason for the government to delay introducing this legislation, it is not controversial and it would give local authorities and the police the powers they need to crack down on shops who continue to sell these products to children.

“We demand the government bring in these new laws to stop the horrendous crime of corrosive substance attacks which have life-long consequences for the victims.”

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