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Acid attacks: Calls to restrict sales after victims burned and disfigured

14 July 2017 09:33
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Acid attacks: Calls to restrict sales after victims burned and disfigured

Carrying sulphuric acid should be treated the same as carrying a knife, suggests one MP, after another serious acid attack.

The most recent case saw five people sprayed in a 90-minute rampage in London - allegedly by two males on a moped who tried to steal other bikes.

One teenager has been arrested and one victim is described as having "life-changing" injuries.

It comes a few weeks after another horrific attack on an aspiring model celebrating her 21st birthday and her 27-year-old cousin.

Resham Khan and Jameel Muhktar were left with devastating injuries after acid was thrown through their car window in Beckton, east London on 21 June.

Mr Muhktar - who was in a coma for two days - said his t-shirt and shorts were "falling apart" and his trainers "melting on his feet" after the attack.

He told Channel 4 News he and his cousin were screaming in pain and he stripped naked to try to stop the burning.

"They're throwing buckets of water over her, buckets of water over me. Somebody came out with a hosepipe..."

He faces skin grafts and plastic surgery to treat the burns to his stomach, neck, ear, arm and back.

Acid was again used as a weapon in an attack on a packed east London nightclub on Easter Monday.

Two people were partially blinded by the attack at the Mangle nightclub in Hackney on 17 April, while other victims were left disfigured.

One victim, Sophie Hall, described how "there was panic... and I just started crying because my face felt as if it was on fire".

"The acid had run down my cheeks and burnt into my skin. I was hysterical," she said.

The ex-boyfriend of reality TV star Ferne McCann is one of those charged.

TV presenter and author Katie Piper also became well known for her bravery and campaigning after an ex-boyfriend arranged an acid attack on her in 2008.

The UK has one of the highest rates of acid attacks in the world - and the problem is growing, according to campaign group Acid Survivors Trust International (ACTI).

Citing police figures, it says most attacks happen in London and that corrosive substances were used in 458 crimes in the city in 2016, compared to 261 in 2015.

The head of London's Metropolitan Police, Cressida Dick, told LBC radio: "I don't want people to think this is happening all over London all the time, it is really not, but we are concerned because the numbers appear to be going up."

In 2013, two young British women were left with horrific burns after an acid attack during a volunteering trip in Zanzibar, east Africa.

South Asian countries such as Pakistan and Bangladesh also often record acid attacks. Women are usually the victims, left disfigured after rejecting marriage proposals or sexual advances.

The crimes often go unreported for fear of reprisals, according to ACTI.

Substances such as heavy-duty drain cleaners are relatively easy to buy from hardware stores and online.

Campaigners are calling for a licensing system or for the buyer to go through checks and have their details held on a database.

Carrying sulphuric acid without justification should also be a criminal offence, according to Labour MP Stephen Timms.

Mr Timms, who will lead a debate on the subject on Monday, said: "I think that carrying acid should in itself be an offence, in the same way that carrying a knife wouldn't have been an offence some years ago."

"I think there's been a pretty effective change - I think the same change should be made for acid," he told the BBC's Today programme.

Metropolitan Police chief Cressida Dick also said she is working with the Home Office on whether a change in the law is needed.


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