Acid listed as ‘highly dangerous’ weapon in new sentencing advice

Police at the scene of the acid attack in Stratford. Picture: PA

Police at the scene of the acid attack in Stratford. Picture: PA - Credit: Archant

Acid will be recognised as a “highly dangerous” weapon under new sentencing guidelines after skyrocketing attacks involving corrosive substances.

Advice to judges and magistrates on punishments for offenders convicted for either possessing or using knives and other weapons to make threats now makes specific reference to the deadly fluids.

The Sentencing Council today published official guidance to courts stating: “An offensive weapon is defined in legislation as ‘any article made or adapted for use for causing injury, or is intended by the person having it with him for such use’.

“A highly dangerous weapon is, therefore, a weapon, including a corrosive substance (such as acid), whose dangerous nature must be substantially above and beyond this.

“The court must determine whether the weapon is highly dangerous on the facts and circumstances of the case.”

Tower Hamlets has the second highest rate of acid attacks in London, according to Met Police.

The figures list 98 violent offences involving corrosive fluids in the borough between January 2015 and October 2017.

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Attacks across the capital rose from 260 in 2015 to 426 in the first 10 months of 2017, the data show.

Bethnal Green and Bow MP Rushanara Ali said: “These horrific acts have caused huge anxiety and fear in the community.

“Last year I called on the Government to urgently review the legality of carrying corrosive substances and the sentencing guidelines associated with such crimes.

“The new guidelines announced today are a step forward in ensuring that the perpetrators of these appalling acts are properly dealt with through the justice system and that those who carry acid and other corrosive substances are aware of the serious consequences they face by doing so.”

The new guidelines come into force in England and Wales in June.

They do not apply to situations where acid, a knife or other offensive weapon is actually used to harm someone.

A draft version of the guidelines released in October 2016 made no reference to acid, though this was updated following feedback from a consultation.

“Those caught with any offensive weapon must feel the full force of the law,” said Justice Minister Rory Stewart.