Acid Attacks

MQT on 2017-08-10
Session date: 
August 10, 2017
Question By: 
Steve O'Connell
GLA Conservatives
Asked Of: 
The Mayor


Can you provide an update on the Metropolitan Police Service's plans for combating the recent rise in acid attacks?


Answer for Acid Attacks

Answer for Acid Attacks

Answered By: 
The Mayor

Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  Thank you for your question.  There has been a rise in acid attacks in London and other parts of the country over the past year.  The victims of these attacks can be left with terrible injuries and require a great deal of ongoing support whether that be medical or emotional.  Of course, I completely condemn those who are willing to commit these acts and I want to reinforce the message that where life-changing injuries occur there needs to be a life-changing deterrent.  I am calling again on the Government to review sentencing on such attacks.


In terms of the immediate response, the police are in the process of rolling out acid kits in 1,000 police cars across London.  That will include large bottles of water, gauze and goggles.  When incidents such as this are reported, the LFB will also be alerted and will attend the scene as they will be able to access large amounts of water quickly.  The MPS has also outlined a three-step model to inform people what to do in the event of an attack: remove yourself from the situation, remove any clothing stained by the corrosive substance, and remove the substance itself with water.  The MPS will be utilising existing operations at street level to combat the carrying of such substances through increased awareness amongst officers.  To ensure safe procedure, there is a pilot in east London using litmus tests as those officers have additional training already.  I am aware that acid is being used in attempts to steal mopeds as well.  The police have an operation designed to tackle this.


To address the problem in the longer term, I have taken steps to ensure the Government is alerted to this problem and takes action to prevent further incidents.  I have pressed them to introduce tougher sentences for those who carry acid and corrosive substances and ask that sentencing guidelines be clarified for judges so that those found guilty of committing acid attacks get the punishment they deserve.  It is also important to clamp down on the sale of corrosive substances and provide additional support for victims who have been physically and sometimes mentally affected by these attacks.


Steve O’Connell AM:  Thank you, Mr Mayor, and, yes, of course we welcome the extra acid kits.  Your last point is an important one, which is about the prevention in the sale of acids and similar substances.  That has been picked up by the Government but we all know that the Government and changing of laws can take time.  Specifically around the sale of acids and similar substances, have you, out of this building, been able to contact or speak to retailers or give some sort of direction through your mayoralty in essence pre‑empting any later legislative changes?


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  You are right to remind me about the legislative change in relation to industrial acid.  This is not just the deregulation the Government did in 2015 but the whole issue of the industrial sale of acid.  You are right that household detergents can be used in acid attacks; the stuff used to unblock drains and around the house.  Some councils already have pilot projects.  Hackney is working with retailers locally around the sale of acid and making sure the public are aware. 


The key point is this though: that we have to make sure that just as something that is unlawful, such as a knife, can be used as a weapon so can acid.  We have to make sure the public are aware that if, for example, a member of your family is thinking about taking acid from the home that that is prevented.  What I am saying to the public is your intelligence is invaluable in relation to this.  Let us know if you know of someone carrying acid.  Please report it.  If someone in your family is thinking about putting acid in a bottle to take out to keep themselves safe, there is a duty upon you to make sure you act on that.


Steve O’Connell AM:  You have, quite rightly, led initiatives on other aspects of serious crime, such as knife crime and domestic abuse.  With this phenomenal rise in acid attacks - disproportionately so in London - and, as you pointed out, the conflation with the rise in moped attacks, we are seeing a new phenomenon of assaults on Londoners.  I would urge you really that this is something this building needs to get more of a leadership grip on with an expectation that you, Mr Mayor, could perhaps do some initiatives around this from your mayoralty as opposed to waiting for legislative change.  It is important, because it is very much a London phenomenon, that potentially you take a lead on it, Mr Mayor.


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  I am taking a lead on it but, to be fair, it is not just a London phenomenon.  I have the figures for around the country.


Steve O’Connell AM:  Yes, I have the figures.


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  There has been a rise around the country.  There are a number of things we can and should do in relation to the voluntary sale of acids around London.  I have talked about the initiative in Hackney.  We have to make sure there is an awareness around retailers not to sell to underage people.  We have to make sure parents are aware of this.  There is an education programme we are working on in relation to that.  Sentencing is an issue I have alluded to already.  However, it is also changing the law.  For example, it is an offence to carry an offensive weapon.  I question whether the police recognise that these acids are an offensive weapon and so we have to make sure we tackle that as well.  You are right to remind others about the link I have talked about between moped crime and the increased use of acid.


Steve O’Connell AM:  You mentioned earlier also - lastly from me - knife crime.  You will know that only two nights ago in Croydon we lost a young 15-year-old man, Jermaine Goupall, to knife crime.  Clearly, this is an issue in London.  The Home Secretary and the Commissioner [of Police of the Metropolis] came out in support, again, of appropriate information-led stop-and-search.  Would you agree with them and support appropriate stop-and-search in this very difficult time in London?


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  I fully support the Home Secretary and the Commissioner in what they said over the last few days about the use of stop-and-search.  It has to be intelligence-led.  We are not talking about industrial-scale or indiscriminate use.  I want to reassure Londoners that what the Secretary and Home Secretary were talking about is the police using this invaluable tool that they have. 


To reassure Londoners, the game‑changer is the body-worn video.  It is the biggest rollout of body‑worn video anywhere in the world.  I would like to reassure the police as well.  I want the police to be confident using this valuable tool when it comes to stop-and-search.  I really welcome the comments of the Commissioner this week.  The Commissioner talked about it being done with courtesy because the public are the biggest allies we have in fighting crime.  What you do not want to do is inadvertently put members of the public off reporting crime because they have been treated badly by the police.  The police get it; I want them to be more confident.  I want Londoners to recognise that intelligence‑led stop-and-search is a good tool in the armoury of the police to keep us all safe.


Steve O’Connell AM:  Thank you, Mr Mayor.