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OPINION: Urgent action to prevent acid attacks

PUBLISHED: 08:00 09 August 2017 | UPDATED: 08:11 09 August 2017

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In my last Recorder column, I wrote about the rise of acid attacks in London.

I mentioned that I had secured a debate on the issue in the House of Commons. It took place on Monday, July 17, just before parliament broke for the summer.

Before the debate, public concern was heightened further by a series of five acid attacks on moped delivery drivers in Islington and Hackney. Moped drivers subsequently blockaded Parliament Square in protest.

Just before the debate, acknowledging growing public concern, the home secretary announced a review of the law and criminal justice responses to acid attacks.

I was pleased about this. I had written to her the previous week urging her to review sentencing guidelines, and to impose tougher and more consistent sentences for those convicted.

During the debate, I pressed the government for two specific changes in the law. First, it should be an offence to carry acid, in the same way that it is already an offence to carry a knife. Second, sulphuric acid – commonly used as drain cleaner – should be reclassified under the Explosive Precursor Regulations 2015.

This would mean a licence would be required to purchase it.

Licensing and restrictions have the support of many residents in Newham, as well as the local authority.

Newham Council has also backed robust codes of practice on the sale of noxious substances, and steps to raise awareness of the issue amongst those working with young people.

Responding to the debate, home office minister Sarah Newton, assured me the government would consider both my proposals.

She also undertook to look at classing acid and other corrosive substances as ‘dangerous’ weapons.

The minister promised to report back on the government’s plans when parliament returns in early September.

Action is urgently needed. There is no time to lose. More from Stephen


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