‘A step forward’: MP for West Ham praises bill tackling acid and weapons possession

Lyn Brown is the Labour MP for West Ham. Pic: Lyn Brown

Lyn Brown is the Labour MP for West Ham. Pic: Lyn Brown - Credit: Lyn Brown

Lyn Brown, the MP for West Ham, welcomed a new bill on corrosive substances in a debate in Parliament on Wednesday.

In the second reading of the Offensive Weapons Bill 2017-2019, in which proposals were debated by MPs, Ms Brown said she was pleased to see harsher punishments for carrying acid, but more needs to be done about online sales.

The bill seeks to make the sale of corrosive substances to under 18s illegal, introduce a new offence for carrying substances in public, and impose restrictions of acid sales online.

Ms Brown said: “This time last year the fear in my constituency about acid attacks was palpable. I heard about constituents of all ages and backgrounds afraid to leave their homes because perception was that these acid attacks were random.

“It was a crisis which needed a strong response from government, and I called for that.

“I’m happy to see today that many of the specific measures I’ve called for are in the bill. Most importantly, the bill takes a step forward in recognising that corrosives are just as dangerous as knives.”

Last year there were 85 attacks using corrosive substances in Newham. Since 2012, the number of acid attacks across the capital has increased by 600 per cent.

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Ms Brown emphasised that acid attacks can do just as much physical and emotional harm as knife attacks, therefore should receive the same kind of legal punishment.

While she welcomed the ban on sales to children under 18s, Ms Brown questioned whether that age should be higher, and she also asked whether it should be an offence to give a child acid, as well as selling it to them.

“Some acid attacks are revenge, punishment or even an initiation right by junior members of criminally-run gangs,” she said.

“If an older man gives acid to a child and tells them to commit an attack, would that act of giving be covered by an offence in this bill? Could we prosecute the man who has given the acid to the child as effectively as if he had taken money from them?”

Ms Brown agreed with the ban on home deliveries of acid, but worried about government’s ability to monitor online sales.

The bill passed through its second reading, and will now be reviewed by a specialist committee.