Gang link to surge in Lon­don acid at­tacks

The Guardian Weekly - - Uk news - Sarah Marsh

A sig­nif­i­cant rise in acid at­tacks has prompted calls to re­strict the sale of cor­ro­sive sub­stances. The num­ber of crimes us­ing acid or other “nox­ious sub­stances” has more than dou­bled in Lon­don over the last three years, where the num­ber of in­ci­dents rose from 186 be­tween April 2014 and March 2015 to 397 in the same pe­riod in 2016-2017.

Ex­perts have linked the rise to a crack­down on the use of knives and guns, say­ing street gangs in­creas­ingly use cor­ro­sive sub­stances, which are more read­ily avail­able, in­stead.

The Metropoli­tan po­lice said that the term nox­ious sub­stances in their record­ing sys­tem mainly refers to cor­ro­sive sub­stances and acids. The fig­ures also in­clude April 2017, when there were 45 crimes, up from 31 in April 2016.

The data con­firms the im­pres­sion given by a spate of re­ports of acid at­tacks in Lon­don. Last week a 27-yearold man suf­fered se­vere burns after be­ing squirted with acid as he walked with a woman in east Lon­don. On Mon­day the chief sus­pect in an al­leged acid at­tack on two cousins, also in east Lon­don, handed him­self in to po­lice. John Tom­lin, 24, was ar­rested on sus­pi­cion of griev­ous bod­ily harm with in­tent after Jameel Mukhtar and Re­sham Khan were at­tacked while wait­ing at traf­fic lights on 21 June.

It fol­lows an in­ci­dent ear­lier this year when a nox­ious sub­stance was launched across the Man­gle club in east Lon­don, in­jur­ing 16 peo­ple.

Last Wed­nes­day a woman from Le­ices­ter who had poured sul­phuric acid on her part­ner as he slept was or­dered to pay him £19,300 ($24,875) in com­pen­sa­tion.

Dr Si­mon Hard­ing, a se­nior lec­turer in crim­i­nol­ogy at Mid­dle­sex Univer­sity, de­scribed the po­lice fig­ures as “gen­uinely scary” and said it was hard to know how ex­treme these hun­dreds of at­tacks were. “We have had high-pro­file acid at­tacks re­cently ... and they tend to be fairly se­ri­ous in gen­eral. There have been al­most 2,000 acid at­tacks in Lon­don since 2010 – that’s huge.”

DCI Mike West, the Met lead for cor­ro­sive-based crime, said the use of such sub­stances was an emerg­ing trend among gangs. “It may be re­spon­si­ble for the higher num­bers in east Lon­don … lots of the in­ci­dents there in­volve pos­si­ble gang mem­ber­ship and also street rob­beries.”

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