London acid attacks: Carrying corrosive fluid should be an offence, says East Ham MP

Police at the scene after two men on a moped carried out five acids attacks during a spree across the capital: @moodiman
Police at the scene after two men on a moped carried out five acids attacks during a spree across the capital: @moodiman

An east London MP has called for carrying acid to be made a crime following a spate of attacks with corrosive liquids in the capital.

Stephen Timms, Labour MP for East Ham, will argue at a parliamentary debate on Monday that regulations surrounding acid should be overhauled "very quickly".

“Carrying acid should in itself be an offence in the same way that carrying a knife was made an offence several years ago," he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

"I think that’s been a pretty effective change and I think the same change should be made for acid."

Under the current law, if police stop someone carrying acid they have to prove intent to cause harm.

When asked whether the law would punish people using the corrosives for harmless purposes, Mr Timms said: “Many people do use sulphuric acid for DIY for drain clearing – purposes of that kind – but just as it's perfectly lawful to buy a knife for use in your kitchen at home... and for it to be wrapped up and safe to carry, that’s fine.

“We can certainly come up with arrangements that would allow people to use sulphuric acid in the normal way."

The MP said stop-and-search procedures should be reviewed in light of the attacks, following the decline of the practice in recent years amid accusations of racial bias.

“I think it is right to look at the circumstances in which it’s appropriate for people to be searched… of course care is required about how one would make such a change but I think now there is case for having a look at that."

He added that the purchase of sulphuric acid should require a licence, arguing that changes brought in last year categorising it as an "explosive precursor" did not go far enough to control its sale.

The Metropolitan Police said that five attacks with corrosive liquids were made in 90 minutes on Thursday night, with noxious substances thrown over people in various locations in Hackney, Stoke Newington and Islington.

A teenager was taken into custody after the incidents, which police believe were linked. One of the victims was said to have suffered "life-changing injuries".

Mr Timms, who has represented East Ham since 1997, called for harsher punishments for perpetrators of acid attacks.

"We should have tougher and more consistent sentences for those who are found guilty for carrying out these attacks," he said.

Crime statistics indicate the use of acid in assaults is becoming more widespread. In 2016, there were 455 crimes in London where a corrosive was used or used as a threat.