A survivor who had a pint of sulphuric acid thrown at his face in a case of mistaken identity has called for tougher sentencing amid an “alarming” rise in attacks.
Andreas Christopheros, 38, said he would “rather have been shot” than endure at least 60 agonising operations following the devastating acid attack, which left him severely scarred and blind in one eye.
He has called for the government to get tough on acid crime after figures published on Thursday revealed a 69 per cent rise in acid attacks in England and Wales, with 710 recorded in 2022 – up from 421 the previous year, Acid Survivors Trust International (ASTI) found.
Mr Christopheros told The Independent: “I think the statistics are really alarming. I think that the government need to be looking at them closely.
“I would rather have been shot. I would rather have been stabbed. I would have been able to rebuild my life. I wouldn’t have to get up every morning and look at my disfigured face.”
He added: “I think we all know that if a politician had been hit, or someone of high status, then things would be different already.”
Mr Christopheros, who runs property development and events businesses, was attacked in 2014 when painter and decorator David Phillips, who had travelled 300 miles to carry out a revenge attack, targeted the wrong house.
When Mr Christopheros, then aged 30, opened his front door in Truro, Cornwall, Phillips shouted “this is for you mate” as he launched the sulphuric acid at his face.
Mr Christopheros realised it was acid when he felt his T-shirt melting from his shoulders as the liquid, which had also hit the ceiling, dripped down his back.
Despite the agonising pain, Mr Christopheros was able to tell the police about his attacker before he lost consciousness. He awoke five days later in intensive care with life-changing injuries.
“They thought I was going to die. They sat down my wife and told her they thought I wasn’t going to make it. They couldn’t make me stable,” said Mr Christopheros, who now campaigns for survivors with the Katie Piper Foundation.
Thankfully he survived and was later airlifted to a specialist burns unit, where he spent the next two months recovering.
Nine years on from the attack, Mr Christopheros is partially blind and still undergoing regular procedures to try and manage his scarring.
He told The Independent that he stopped counting his surgeries a long time ago, but estimated he has had at least 60 different procedures through the NHS and a US-based charity, Face Forward, which has spent $650,000 on medical intervention with some of the best plastic surgeons in Beverly Hills.
However, Phillips is already walking free after he was released halfway through his 16-year sentence for grievous bodily harm with intent.
“I still regularly have surgeries and I will have surgeries for years to come, while my attacker is out living a normal life,” Mr Christopheros said.
“Until the day I die, I am going to be wearing these scars. I am still going to be disfigured by what this man did to me.
“After just five and a half years he was moved to an open prison in his home county. It’s mind-boggling.”
Under more recent guidelines, Philips would have to serve at least three-quarters of his sentence before being eligible for release. But Mr Christopheros is calling for tougher sentencing and better education for judges around the lifelong impact of acid crime.
“As a survivor, knowing they are out and about while you are still dealing with the ramifications is a real low blow. Tougher sentences are a deterrent,” he added, noting that other countries including India and Pakistan have harsher punishments with perpetrators facing life with a minimum of 10 years or 14 years respectively.
Mr Christopheros’s attack came at the start of a wave of high-profile cases which culminated in tougher laws being introduced in the Offensive Weapons Bill, which was granted royal assent in 2019, which made it an offence to possess a corrosive substance in a public place, and put stricter controls on the sale of acids and other corrosive substances.
Attacks peaked in 2017 when 941 offences were recorded, but cases had been steadily dropping until the recent surge.
“To read now that they have come back up in quite a serious way is really concerning,” he added.
He also called for the two-strike rule – which sees a mandatory minimum sentence applied the second time an offender is caught carrying acid – to be abolished in favour of a one-strike sentence, and for a new law which would make decanting acid into an unmarked container a crime.
“There is no need to decant acid or corrosive substances into an unmarked bottle or water bottle,” he said, adding that further restricting access to acids will also help minimise attacks.
“Prohibition is always difficult because people will still want to get their hands on it. But there’s a lot that can be done to make it harder. You shouldn’t be able to just walk into B&Q or buy it off Amazon.”
A Ministry of Justice spokesperson said: “Acid attacks devastate lives, leaving victims with both emotional and physical scars, and our thoughts remain with Mr Christopheros.
“While sentences are determined by independent judges, our tough changes to the law mean those who harm others with acids can face up to life imprisonment.”