Javid boosts stop and search powers to tackle acid scourge

Sajid Javid is to strengthen stop and search powers to combat “sickening” acid attacks.

The Home Secretary will widen the circumstances in which the tactics can be used after a consultation showed widespread support for the move.

Currently, police can only stop and search people they suspect of carrying acid with intent to cause injury.

Under the extension, officers would be able to stop and search anyone suspected of carrying a corrosive substance in a public place.

The plans were first unveiled last year as part of a package of measures designed to combat rising levels of serious violence.

Mr Javid said: “Anyone who carries acid to maim and disfigure others is a coward who deserves to face the full force of the law.

“That is why we are giving police officers greater powers to help bring them to justice and protect the public from their sickening crimes – which can leave victims with life-changing injuries.

“The police are clear – stop and search is one of the most important tools they have in the fight against serious violence. I will continue to give them the support they need to do their vital work.”

The Government said the vast majority of respondents who answered the consultation backed the change.

One response said: “Acid is a real and documented threat which has been realised.”

However, some submissions suggested existing legislation already covers the vast majority of operational situations in which the police would need to stop someone to seize a corrosive substance.

Figures from 39 police forces indicate that there were 408 corrosive substance attacks between November 2016 and April 2017.

Deputy Chief Constable Adrian Hanstock, stop and search lead for the National Police Chiefs Council, said: “The police service welcomes changes widening officers’ ability to stop and search those who would seek to cause serious harm using corrosive substances.

“Identifying and disrupting those individuals through the controlled use of stop and search powers is an important way in which we can keep the public safe.

“As with the range of stop and search powers currently available to police officers, Chief Constables will be keen to ensure that these powers are used correctly in a legitimate, proportionate and considerate way.”

Police stop and search activity has plunged in recent years amid repeated controversy over the powers.

But the Home Secretary backed the use of the tactics weeks after his appointment last year.

The new measure will be introduced through the Offensive Weapons Bill, which is currently before Parliament.

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