Acid Attacks and preventative policing

MQT on 2017-12-14
Session date: 
December 14, 2017
Question By: 
Unmesh Desai
Labour Group
Asked Of: 
The Mayor


How successful has the rollout of 'acid testing kits' for officers in East London been in preventing acid attacks?


Answer for Acid Attacks and preventative policing

Answer for Acid Attacks and preventative policing

Answered By: 
The Mayor

Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  Let me be clear.  Acid attacks are a truly horrendous crime, one that gives victims a life sentence of trying to recover from the mental and physical damage that has been inflicted on them and one that has no place on the streets of our city.  The initial response to an acid attack can be vital in minimising the harm caused to the victim and the MPS have therefore rolled out acid attack response kits to over 1,000 police cars and key patrol points across London.  More recently, they have also supplied these kits to security industry authority staff working at Christmas markets across the city.  The kits include large bottles of water, gauntlets and goggles that enable respondents to safely administer initial treatments to victims in the aftermath of an attack.  The MPS and National Health Service (NHS) have also set out a three‑step model to inform the public of what to do in the event of an acid attack: remove contaminated clothing carefully, rinse skin immediately with running water, and report the attack by dialling 999. 


The acid testing kits that you refer to in your question are different.  They were trialled in east London and consisted of litmus paper and colour charts, with the aim of proactively deterring potential offenders.  However, they were not as effective as the MPS would have hoped, with inaccuracies in some results, and as a consequence they are not being rolled out more widely.  Preventing attacks using corrosive substances and improving the response are priorities for the police and I offer my full support to them in dealing with these horrendous crimes. 


I am pleased that the Government listened to our calls and those of Assembly Members to strengthen current legislation and policies on this.  I am also pleased to see the Government has responded by releasing a proposal to ban the sale of acids to anyone under the age of 18 years.  It is vital that those measures move forward and are enshrined in law.  I should be clear that acid attacks represent a small but extremely concerning proportion of offences in London. 


Unmesh Desai AM:  Thank you, Mr Mayor.  As you mentioned, the ban on the sale of acid to under‑18s is something we welcome but there is something that does concern me, and that is that they are ignoring online sales, just like with the sale of knives.  Would you agree that in order to be more effective, the legislation relating to acid should also stipulate that acid bought online must be picked up in person at a local store that can then carry on identification (ID) and age checks to ensure that the product is not sold to under‑18s?


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  I agree.  This would help the police and the trading standards as well. 


Unmesh Desai AM:  Absolutely. 


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  And similar legislation for knives.


Unmesh Desai AM:  I have written to the Home Office urging them to do this.  There was a consultation that finished last Friday [8 December 2017].  Thank you.