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Hot Topic for September 2017 Surge In Acid Attacks in England Leads to Calls to Restrict Sales

Current Hot Topic for September 2017

Surge In Acid Attacks in England Leads to Calls to Restrict Sales


Surge In Acid Attacks in England Leads to Calls to Restrict Sales

Background Story

Crimes with corrosive substances which can be bought over the counter, has doubled in the last 3 years...

The number of crimes using acid or other “noxious substances” has more than doubled in London over the last three years. There have also been notable increases in other parts of England. In the capital, the number of incidents rose from 186 between April 2014 and March 2015 to 397 in the same period in 2016-2017. The Metropolitan police said that the term “noxious substances” in their recording system mainly refers to corrosive substances and acids. Experts have linked the rise to a crackdown on the use of knives and guns, saying street gangs increasingly use corrosive substances, which are more readily available, instead.

Earlier this week a 27-year-old man suffered severe burns after being squirted with acid as he walked with a woman in Mile End, East London. Last month two Muslim cousins in East London were victims of an acid attack, which police are now treating as a hate crime. Jameel Mukhtar and Resham Khan (pictured to the right) were attacked while sitting in a car at traffic lights and both suffered severe burns. It follows an incident earlier this year when a noxious substance was launched across the Mangle club in East London, injuring 16 people. On Wednesday 5th July, a woman from Leicester who had poured sulphuric acid on her partner as he slept was ordered to pay him £19,300 in compensation.

Dr Simon Harding, a senior lecturer in Criminology at Middlesex University, described the police figures as “genuinely scary” and said it was hard to know how extreme these hundreds of attacks were. He said that in the UK the majority of attacks were men against men, although there were also some instances of substances being used as part of domestic violence. He said many cases went unreported through fear (, July 2017).

It has been reported by the Express (2015) that Katie Piper’s attacker Stefan Sylvestre was sentenced to 16 years, after her jealous ex-boyfriend requested that he carry out this vicious response. After a minimum of 6 years Sylvestre’s parole was rejected as he was deemed too dangerous to be released. Since the attack Katie has battled through 40 operations, yet has found happiness getting married and having a child. Katie had previously written of feeling horrified when she found out that her attacker was applying to freely roam the streets again. She wrote in her autobiography: “I’m the one with the life sentence. Not him! The two of them had taken so much from me, and now this man's
punishment might soon be over. He can change his identity, change his name, get a new job, a partner, move on, but I can’t. I can’t pretend it didn’t happen because it’s all over my face."

MP Amber Rudd has initiated a petition to “Prohibit the purchase of acid to those without a licence”. She states, “It is about time that the law changes for the purchase of corrosive substances - right now you can buy it easily from any hardware store if you are 18 and over. Corrosive acids like sulphuric acid are very lethal and life damaging substances. You should only be allowed to purchase corrosive substances with a licence to buy. The person purchasing should go through checks so their details are held on a database or hold a licence.” For more information on signing this petition, visit

Criminals who carry out acid attacks can be prosecuted for grievous bodily harm and jailed for life, after the fact. However, there are still no laws or licences to prohibit or control the purchase of corrosive and harmful substances. Petitions are underway to try and promote this safeguard, however in the meantime, Police in East London will carry kits to allow them to test for acid and other corrosive liquids upon persons. The police will then have to be able to show there is intent to cause harm in order to make arrests, which could prove extremely difficult. Considering the explosive increase in acid attacks recently, do you feel there is enough being actioned on a national scale? What other actions could be taken to try and safeguard individuals from the harm of acid attacks in the future; what other preventative measures can you think of?

In June 2017, two Muslim cousins were attacked in London and this is now being treated as a hate crime. This incident has taken discriminatory abuse to another level, whereby actual bodily harm and long-term scarring both physically and emotionally traumatise the victims. According to the Office of National Statistics 7% of all recorded hate crimes are related to religion. Carry out some research to find out the percentage breakdown of other hate crimes in relation to the protected characteristics? What do you think of these statistics; are they what you would expect? Hate crimes can fall under the realms of civil law with the Equality Act 2010 and the Human Rights Act 1998. What is the piece of legislation in which hate crimes can be criminally prosecuted? Between April 2014 and March 2015 there were 186 acid attack incidents; rising to 397 in the same period of 2016-17. What is the percentage rise in acid attacks noted here?

With the potential harm that can be caused by corrosive substances to the body, it is worth considering our own practices. Not only can “noxious substances” cause immediate physical defects, HSE states that some diseases take years to develop from exposure to hazardous substances. If exposure is high because the task has always been done that way, maybe it’s time for a change. What control measures are actioned in your place of work to maintain the safety of individuals? How are hazardous substances stored? Could this be improved, considering access may lead to purposeful bad practice? Reflect on your own practices with hazardous substances; have you come across any concerns which could have led to more severe consequences? What have you learnt from this?

Liberty is the state of being free within society from oppressive restrictions on one's way of life, behaviour, or political views. What happens when liberty is suppressed, whether by a bureaucracy, personal relationships or when something so traumatic happens in your life it leaves you in fear of living that life, promoting your identity and achieving your dreams? What is the potential impact on an individual who has suffered such traumatic abuse; how will their overall well-being suffer? What are the national and local support systems in place for victims of abuse such as this? How could you provide support to someone to regain their identity and self-worth?

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