Year in jail for homeless man found carrying 'noxious substance'

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A man who was found in possession of a bottle of a bleach-like substance has been jailed for one year.

Bradley Kerr, 21, of no fixed address, was arrested after police swooped on him when he was seen carrying a bottle near Bow Road station in east London.

He pleaded guilty to one count of possession of an offensive weapon.

The judge, Recorder Sally-Ann Hales QC, said: "The obvious inference is that it was a bottle, originally used for some innocent purpose, which had been refilled with a noxious substance, turning it into an offensive weapon."

It is not known how strong the bleach-like substance was but the court heard that if strong enough, it could cause skin irritation or burns, and could be very dangerous if inhaled or ingested.

Ms Hales added: "So whilst it is a commonly available household product, it is a liquid which has the capacity to do a great deal of harm, particularly in the wrong hands such as yours - which is no doubt why you were carrying it.

"A liquid of this nature in a portable squeezy bottle can have no possible purpose other than for use as a highly dangerous weapon."

She continued "Carrying commonly available cleaning products for use as weapons of offence or for the purposes of committing other crimes is, as I am sure you are aware, increasingly prevalent.

"In the recent months there has been an escalation that has caused widespread concern."

Ms Hales added that courts must respond to such concern by imposing sentences which serve as punishments, as well as deterrents.

Kerr is one of the first people to be convicted since the Crown Prosecution Service issued guidelines last month making it clear that a noxious substance could be considered an offensive weapon.

Officers were called to the scene in Tower Hamlets in the early hours of July 18 after reports of a suspected robbery.

A group of men were searched nearby and Kerr was found to be carrying a squeezy plastic drink bottle filled with the suspect substance.

Prosecutor Alex Rooke said: "They found in that bag a squeezy drinks bottle with what they described as a frothy, murky liquid.

"Mr Kerr said that this bottle was his. He said that it was washing up liquid that his mother had given him because he was homeless."

Snaresbrook Crown Court heard the liquid was tested and found to have a Ph level of 12.

Mr Rooke explained that this made it a highly corrosive substance.

Kerr, who has a string of previous convictions, including one for possession of a bladed article was jailed for 12 months.

Nasreen Yadallee, from CPS London, said: "Kerr could find no excuse for carrying a corrosive substance in a squeezy bottle with the label removed.

"It was clear he was carrying it as a weapon, ready to use on someone if the need arose.

"Carrying a corrosive substance for the purpose of causing injury is a criminal offence punishable with a prison sentence."