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.”


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More than 260 acid attacks were carried out across Barking and Dagenham, Havering and Redbridge between January 2015 and October 2017, according to Met Police.

The figures cover the East Area Borough Command Unit region, which consists of the three boroughs.

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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.

Barking MP Dame Margaret Hodge welcomed the news, calling acid attacks “completely abhorrent”.

“We know only too well here in Barking and Dagenham how acid attacks are on the rise and how they ruin lives,” she said.

“It is absolutely right that carrying acid is considered as dangerous as carrying a knife. However, we need to stop acid getting into the hands of criminals in the first place.

“That means the government needs to get on with delivering its promise to ban under-18s from being able to purchase acid over the counter.”

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.

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