The national police lead on acid attacks has said 2017 is likely to see the most on record in the UK, as the profile of incidents shifts from domestic violence to street attacks involving gangs and young people.
Rachel Kearton, an assistant chief constable with Suffolk police, said Britain has one of the highest rates in the world of attacks with acid and other corrosive substances and the number appeared to be rising.
This was partly due to other badly affected countries such as India not keeping comprehensive records, she said. “We are still talking very small numbers in relation to other types of crime,” said Kearton, pointing out that there were slightly more than 400 incidents in the six months to April 2017.
Kearton was speaking on Thursday ahead of the sentencing of Arthur Collins, an ex-boyfriend of The Only Way Is Essex cast member Ferne McCann, for an acid attack that injured 14 people in a London nightclub in April. She is leading research by the National Police Chiefs Council into trends and patterns of acid attacks and is due to report by mid-February.
“The trend of escalation appears to be more within males, and they appear to be of a younger age profile, currently showing at 26-35,” Kearton said, adding that previously, acid attacks had more commonly been incidents of domestic violence.
Unlike with knives, there is no specific offence of carrying corrosive substances, which Kearton said hampered attempts by police to crack down on the problem. Work is currently under way in the Home Office to draft new legislation, which Kearton said she hoped would place the onus on the individual carrying the substance to justify doing so.
“They are rare attacks, I’ve mentioned, but they are horrendous,” she said. “They have lifelong impact and they are used with intent to maim and disfigure, either because there has been complete disregard for the impact that could be caused or because the intent is purely there in order for that person to be scarred for life.”