Acid attacks soar by 30% in two years, police figures show


Violent crimes involving acid and other corrosive liquids have soared by 30% in the last two years, new figures have revealed.

Police have recorded more than 500 offences in which people were injured or threatened with harmful substances since 2012, an investigation by the Press Association found.

They included 242 reports of violent crime which mentioned acid or other corrosive substances across 23 forces in 2014 and 2015, compared with 186 alleged offences in 2012 and 2013.

One acid attack victim said he believed criminals were using corrosive substances as a "cheaper alternative" to guns and knives.

Wayne Ingold, 57, had sulphuric acid thrown at his face at his block of flats in Witham, Essex, in 2014 in a case of mistaken identity.

The father of two said: "There has to be a stronger deterrent because these crimes are on the rise. It's got ridiculous now. One day someone will get killed.

"We had gun crime and knife crime - acid seems to be a cheaper alternative. How would these people feel if a member of their family was the victim?"

The Press Association sent freedom of information requests to every police force in the UK asking how many assaults had been recorded involving acid or other corrosive substances since 2012.

Some forces provided details of all violent crime reports mentioning corrosive liquids including threats when the substance may not have been used. A number of forces provided their total number of offences since 2012 but did not break down the figures for each year.

In total, 503 offences in which people were injured or threatened with corrosive substances were recorded by forces between 2012 and November 2015, according to the police figures.

The Metropolitan Police said 26 attacks involving acid or a corrosive or noxious substance had been recorded since 2012. Sulphuric acid, drain cleaner, chromic acid solution and patio cleaner were among the substances used in the assaults.

Essex Police said 28 violence against the person offences involving acid, ammonia, bleach or a chemical were recorded between April 2014 and November 2015, compared to 12 offences between April 2013 and March 2014.

Among the offences, bleach was used in a cruelty offence on a young girl and ammonia was used as poison with intent to injure.

Humberside Police said 21 violence against the person offences were recorded in 2014 involving acid, poison or a corrosive substance. This compared to nine in 2013 and 15 in 2012. Another 11 offences were recorded between January and November last year.

Crimes included an incident when nail polish remover was poured on to a person's face then set alight, an incident in which bleach, fertiliser and household chemicals were sprayed in a person's face and an incident when hot oil and sugar was poured over a victim.

West Midlands Police said 25 assaults involving acid or corrosive substances were recorded in 2014, up from 22 in 2013 and 13 in 2012. Another 23 incidents were recorded between January and November last year.

Dyfed Powys Police said two acid attacks had been recorded since 2012 involving an acid-based cleaner and an unknown liquid, while Gwent Police said one assault had been recorded involving acid or another corrosive substance.

Jaf Shah, director of the Acid Survivors Trust International, said: "The British Government needs to look into this subject with far greater seriousness to understand why these attacks are occurring and what can be done to prevent them occurring.

"The Colombian government is taking action due to a huge public outcry which in turn led to changes in the law including tighter control on sale of acids and tougher sentencing of attackers. The fact that the majority of victims in the UK are men goes against the global pattern where women tend to be victims."

The National Police Chiefs' Council (NPCC) said violent crimes involving corrosive substances were on the rise in the UK and there were concerns that incidents were not being reported.

Deputy Chief Constable Andy Cooke, the NPCC's lead on violence and public protection, said: "The use of corrosive substances to commit acts of violence is something that we are seeing more of both in the UK and globally. This type of offence is extreme and generally a very personalised crime with the aim being to cause lasting physical and emotional damage to victims.

"It is virtually impossible to ban the sale of all corrosive substances as many are household products, including for example bleach and drain cleaner, and are readily available over the counter at DIY and pharmacy stores, as well as supermarkets.

"I am sure that some offences of this type are not reported as a crime to the police. Crimes such as this should not go unreported and I would urge anyone who is a victim of this type of attack to report it so that we can deal with the matter positively and sensitively."