Perpetrators of acid attacks can now expect to face prison life sentences, while those caught carrying corrosive substances could face up to four years in jail, tough new rules for prosecutors state.
Following a recent spate of acid attacks, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has issued updated interim guidance, which, for the first time, explicitly refers to acid or corrosive substances.
Possession of an offensive weapon or threatening a person with an offensive weapon, which each come with a maximum four-year prison term, are among the “most appropriate” charges which can be brought.
Prosecutors have also been told to consider charges which have a maximum life sentence such as causing grievous bodily harm with intent or throwing or applying corrosive fluid on a person with intent to burn, maim, disfigure or disable or to do some grievous bodily harm.
A CPS spokesperson said the guidance seeks to provide information “on the appropriate handling of cases involving ‘acid’ attacks”.
They added: “This will form part of the wider review of guidance on ‘Offensive Weapons, Knives, Bladed and Pointed Articles, and the Offences against the Person Charging Standard’ that was already under way.”
“You can’t just expect to carry acid around without an excuse,” Director of Public Prosecutions Alison Saunders told the Evening Standard.
“It counts as an offensive weapon, just as much as a knife or a screwdriver could be.”
The CPS believe there is a strong public interest in prosecuting offences of acid or corrosive substance attacks.
The CPS’s guidance states: “Acid and corrosive substance attacks have a devastating effect on victims. And when thrown on to the victim’s body – usually their face – cause the skin and flesh to melt, sometimes exposing and dissolving the bones below.
“The long-term consequences of acid or corrosive substance attacks may include blindness, permanent scarring of the face and body, and social and psychological difficulties.
“Acid and other corrosive substances are becoming a preferred weapon of offenders carrying out criminal activity, due to it being easy to obtain, cheap and difficult to trace back to the perpetrator.”
In July, five separate victims who were all driving mopeds, were allegedly targeted by two moped-riding attackers in north and east London in less than 24 hours.
A sixth moped rider was attacked with a “noxious substance” in London the following day.
In July there were 455 acid offences recorded in London in 2016, with 63% being assaults.