Government, law enforcement, academics, survivors, charities and industry, came together today (23 October) to discuss the horrible nature of acid attacks and consider what more can be done to protect our society.
The meeting, jointly chaired by the Safeguarding Minister, Sarah Dines, and Katie Piper OBE, was an opportunity for government, policing, trading standards, charities, retailers and the delivery sector to discuss the action to date in preventing and tackling corrosive attacks and what more can be done to clamp down on these horrendous acts of violence which devastate lives.
Government action to tackle the use of acid and other corrosives in violent attacks is based on four key strands: strong policing, effective legislation, providing support for victims and survivors, and working with retailers to restrict access to acids and other harmful corrosive products.
Minister for Safeguarding, Sarah Dines, said:
Acid attacks devastate lives and leave victims with both emotional and physical scars and our thoughts remain with all the survivors and their families.
The government is committed to doing all we can to prevent acid and other corrosive substances being used as weapons, and to ensure strong punishments for those who do so. We have already introduced the measures within the Offensive Weapons Act which makes it an offence to carry these substances in public, to ensure the cowards who use acids as weapons face the full force of the law, and also ban the sale of acid and other corrosives to under-18s and the delivery of such substances to residential premises and lockers to restrict the availability and prevent their misuse.
We know that legislation alone will not prevent attacks, which is why conversations such as today’s are so important. I thank those who participated, especially, Katie Piper, Andreas Christopheros and the other survivors who are so brave and courageous.
The round table brought together the many structures both inside and outside of government aimed at protecting the public from such attacks to discuss, retailers’ statutory obligations, including around age verification, and to ensure they have all the necessary tools to effectively enforce these measures.
The meeting also explored ideas about what more can be done to reduce the risk of corrosive products being misused as weapons, whether retailers are taking this seriously enough and if more can be done by staff to question the use at the time of purchase.
Katie Piper and Andreas Christopheros previously met with the Home Secretary on 12 December 2022 to discuss their concerns and ideas, which has led to today’s event.
Katie Piper, philanthropist and broadcaster, said:
Today was about progress, prevention and proactive conversation.
Over the past couple of years I have worked tirelessly to keep this topic on the government agenda.
This is a very serious issue and statistics show violent crime using acid is increasing at an alarming and disturbing rate.
Reducing accessibility and the sale of corrosive substances is absolutely crucial to reducing acid attacks, and the resulting horrendous impact it has on victims.
Retailers, associations and delivery gateways all have a colossal duty and responsibility to help us in our aims.
I remain absolutely determined in my mission for change – today for accessibility, but tomorrow also for sentencing, legislation, funding and increased regulation.
Andreas Christopheros, acid attack survivor and campaigner, said:
Surviving and living through the wake of an acid attack is a challenge like no other. Survivors are left broken physically, emotionally, and financially and many will carry these struggles for the rest of their lives.
It’s promising that the government has engaged in our campaign for change, however, more needs to happen. We must keep pushing for a better future for survivors of these horrific crimes.
National Police Chiefs’ Council lead for Corrosive Attacks, Deputy Assistant Commissioner Alexis Boon, said:
The use of corrosive substances to commit acts of violence devastates lives and causes physical and psychological damage to victims that can last a lifetime.
We are committed to working with the public and partners to tackle this appalling crime and welcome efforts made in recent years to help, including changes to legislation brought about by the Offensive Weapons Act 2019, that restrict sale, possession, and delivery of corrosive substances. Reflecting corrosive substances in UK legislation for the first time, rightly demonstrates how serious such offences are.
Today’s meeting with key partners was extremely constructive and indicates a real joint commitment to tackling this crime. Many corrosive substances are available over the counter at supermarkets and DIY stores, including for example bleach and drain cleaners. It is important that law enforcement and government work closely with retailers themselves, to enhance our intelligence picture, and determine the best ways to keep these products from falling into the hands of people who intend to use them to cause harm.
Serious crimes such as this should not go unreported. I would urge anyone who is a victim of this type of attack to report it to the police, so that it can dealt with positively and sensitively.