Tower Hamlets Council welcomes plans to increase stop and search in bid to prevent acid attacks

Under the proposals, police will be able to search anyone they believe to be carrying a corrosive su

Under the proposals, police will be able to search anyone they believe to be carrying a corrosive substance. Picture: Rhiannon Long - Credit: Archant

Stop and search powers could be increased to help police officers prevent acid attacks.

In a consultation published last week, the Home Office proposed increasing powers so officers could stop and search people they believed to be carrying corrosive substances.

Officers would also carry testing kits, where they could test potentially harmful substances on the spot.

Minister for policing, Nick Hurd, said: “Acid attacks are appalling acts of violence that devastate lives and can have fatal consequences.

“A bottle of acid can be as lethal as a knife or a firearm, and these new powers will enable police officers to prevent these despicable thugs from carrying out their terrible crimes.

“The home secretary has been clear that stop and search is a vital and effective policing tool when used correctly. We will always seek to give police the powers they need to crack down on violent crime and bring perpetrators to justice.”

Under the Offensive Weapons Bill, which was introduced this year, carrying corrosive substances in public was made an offence. Under current laws, police can stop anyone they think is carrying acid and intends to harm someone, but under the new proposals, police would be able to stop anyone carrying acid in a public place.

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According to Met Police figures, Tower Hamlets has the second highest rate of acid attacks in London. Between January 2015 and October 2017 there were 98 violent offences involving corrosive fluids in the borough, beaten only by Newham, which saw 289.

Tower Hamlets’ mayor, John Biggs, introduced an Acid Charter which works with retailers in the borough to tighten up the sale of corrosive substances, especially to young people.

Councilor Asma Begum, cabinet member for community safety, said: “I welcome the proposals. I have long called for the government to treat the use of acid in a similar way to carrying a knife. As with all stop and search powers it needs to be exercised appropriately by our police officers. Our residents are rightly concerned about acid attacks which are despicable and cowardly acts.

“I continue to call on government to also introduce an age restriction on purchasing corrosive substances and prevent their cash purchase, as debit or credit card purchases are traceable.”

The consultation on extending stop and search powers is open until October 22.