Feedback on this page
Due to heavy media coverage of recent acid and corrosive substance attacks in 2017 I thought it would be useful to create this page to display some of the facts and figures that underpin the problem and the Government’s response. I will update this page as soon as I have new information concerning the proposed or called for changes in legislation.
Even before the acid attacks against the moped riders in London on 13 July the UK Government had been working with police, health professionals and retailers to develop an action plan to reduce this insidious form of attack.
The size of the problem
The background to the July attacks is worrying and a quick search of the internet reveals an alarming increase in corrosive substance attacks since 2012
Corrosive substance attacks have taken place across the UK, but London appears to stand out in respect to the numbers of incidents.
The following figures were obtained from the Met Police by the BBC. These are crimes in London where a corrosive substance was used or threatened to be used
- 2010 293
- 2011 259
- 2012 162
- 2013 210
- 2014 166
- 2015 261
- 2016 458
- 2017 119 up to July 2017. [Maybe suggesting a decrease in 2017?]
In the London ‘crime year’ 2016 to 2017 corrosive substance use in crimes can be broken down further as follows:
- Violence against the person 208, of which 38 caused serious injuries and 1 was fatal
- Robbery 118, 10 of which caused serious injury to the victim
- Sexual offences 2, 1 of which was rape
A significant number of the attacks are related to gang activity or the theft of vehicles of various types and the attackers are often riding mopeds. (See below)
It is worth pointing out that although the increase in use of corrosive substances is concerning the numbers are very tiny indeed when compared with crime in general
Reasons why corrosive substances are being used
- The various substances, including drain cleaner, oven cleaner, ammonia and bleach are cheap and easy to purchase
- There is no onus on the retailer to restrict or question the sale of these substances
- They can be carried easily and for the most part ‘legally’ and almost undetectably in something like a water bottle
- The shift to corrosive substances may be as a result of higher penalties and crackdowns by police on knives and firearms
The UK Government’s response
The Government’s Action Plan published in July 2017 can be read on this Gov.uk website page
Here is a summary of the main proposed actions
- The Crown Prosecution Service’s (CPS) guidance to prosecutors will be reviewed to ensure it makes clear that acid and other corrosive substances can be classed as dangerous weapons, and what is required to prove intent
- The Poisons Act 1972 will be reviewed to assess whether it should cover more acids and harmful substances
- The Home Office will work with police and the Ministry of Justice to assess whether the powers available to the courts, including sentencing, are sufficient to deal with these serious offences
- A wide-ranging review of the law enforcement and criminal justice response [will take place], [looking at] existing legislation, access to harmful products and the support offered to victims
- New guidance will be provided to police officers on preventing attacks, searching potential perpetrators for harmful substances and responding to victims at the scene
- Further work will also take place with retailers to agree measures to restrict sales of acids and other corrosive substances
- [Work will take place] to improve police recording and reporting of offences
- Research will be commissioned to better understand the motivations for carrying out these attacks
- Confirmation will be required to ensure that appropriate support is provided to victims, from the initial medical response to giving evidence in court and the long-term recovery beyond
- Ensuring that victim impact statements are completed in every case by the police so courts are made aware of the full impact of the attack
- The police will also be encouraged to prepare Community Impact Statements to show how such attacks have affected communities
First Aid Treatment
Finally I thought it useful to provide first aid information provided by St John Ambulance (and other health advice sources) in the event that you or someone you come across has been attacked with a corrosive substance
- Act as quickly as possible to minimise damage to the eyes, skin and surrounding tissues
- Call 999 to summon urgent professional medical assistance
- Make sure the area around the person is safe (e.g. puddles of acid) and take measures, such as wearing gloves, so you don’t come into contact with the chemical
- If the burns are particularly bad continue to check that the victim is breathing and is responsive throughout the first aid procedure
- The main way to combat the effects of acid is to dose the victim with water as soon as possible for up to 20 minutes. If not already removed you should remove contaminated clothing whilst dousing the injury with water
- There is no point searching for an antidote. Trying to neutralise burns with alkalis should not be attempted unless properly trained. Focus on flooding the injury with water
- If the acid is in the person’s eyes hold them under gently running water for at least 10 minutes irrigating the inside and outside of the eyelids. Don’t let the person touch their eyes as they may have acid on their hands and don’t try to remove contact lenses. Make sure the now contaminated flushing water does not splash an uninjured eye. Clean, non-fluffy pads over injured eyes after thorough cleaning is also advised
- Health advice sites warn against using a hard spray of water on affected areas as this could lead to more damage and so ensure that the flood of water is gentle and is continued up to the times advised above
- If the chemical is in powder form it can be brushed off the skin. Be careful not to breath in the powder
Do please remember that these forms of attacks are rare.
Moped robbery and snatch theft
Just heard about a good idea on BBC Radio London where Vanessa Feltz was interviewing a moped theft victim, Hira Virdee.
Hira recently had his phone snatched by a moped rider/pillion whilst in central London, but due to the fact that the riders were covering their faces and the registration of the moped (probably stolen anyway) was not visible the police said they were unable to help him further at this time. He highlighted the problem of a lack of police resources to follow these mopeds via CCTV to see where they were going and reminded us that the police were not able to give chase if there was a danger that the moped rider or some innocent pedestrian might get hurt as a result of the pursuit.
In a very positive move he has since put his bad experience into creating a new Twitter account called @MopedSpotted and he is encouraging all of us, particularly in London where the problem has been growing, to report sightings of mopeds potentially linked to crime. He would like you to tweet the location, pictures and or videos of unidentifiable mopeds if you see them involved in crime or you are suspicious as to what the riders are doing. You can follow the message with #moped #gang #acid #knife
Hira intends to write an algorithm to analyse the information he receives to provide intelligence to the police and the public.
Obviously you should not place yourself in danger if you decide to film an incident; put your own safety first. Call 999 if you see an incident taking place.
Good luck Hira!
Updated July 2017, August 2017