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5 Feb, 2024 12:17

UK has world’s highest rate of acid attacks – data

Police are searching for a man suspected of carrying out an assault on a mother and her two young children
UK has world’s highest rate of acid attacks – data

A chemical substance attack on a woman and her two young children in southwest London last week has highlighted a rising trend of serious assaults involving corrosive substances in the UK over the past few years, data has shown.

A manhunt is underway for suspected attacker Abdul Ezedi, 35, following the incident in Clapham last Wednesday, which injured a total of 12 people. A woman, 31, and her two young daughters, aged eight and three, remain in hospital, with the mother’s injuries described as “life-changing.”

Data from the UK-based charity Acid Survivors Trust International (ASTI), a non-profit that seeks to highlight such incidents globally, has shown that the United Kingdom has the largest number of recorded acid attacks in the world.

On Sunday, London police issued new information about the alkaline substance used in the assault on the mother and children, saying laboratory tests revealed it to be either liquid sodium hydroxide or liquid sodium carbonate – chemicals easily purchased online or in specialist hardware stores.

In 2022, ASTI registered 710 cases of assaults with a corrosive substance, a 69% increase on the 421 cases the year prior. Acid attacks peaked in 2017, ASTI data shows, with a total of 941 cases. Data for 2023 has not yet been published, though the National Health Service has said it received a total of 82 hospital admissions between 2022 and 2023 for injuries sustained from a corrosive chemical.

“Given its nature, the effects of an acid attack prompt instant and excruciating pain, and injuries cause life-changing disabilities,” ASTI said.

Attacks involving chemicals have been traditionally linked to UK gang violence, ASTI notes, but its most recent data from 2022 reflected that women are now being targeted more than men. “This signals a rise in violence against women and girls,” ASTI said on its website.

The UK strengthened its laws governing dangerous chemicals in 2022, adding measures to the Offensive Weapons Act of 2019 to impose restrictions on the purchase of such substances. Possession of a dangerous chemical in a public area carries a prison sentence of up to four years, under the legislation.

It was already a serious crime under the UK Offences Against the Person Act of 1861 to use a corrosive substance to inflict bodily harm. The offense can lead to a maximum sentence of life imprisonment in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

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