A momentous rise in acid attacks has prompted calls to restrict the sale of corrosive substances which can be easily bought over the counter.
The number of crimes using acid or other “noxious substances” has more than doubled in London over the last three years, according to official data seen by the Guardian. There have also been notable increases in other parts of England. In the capital, the number of incidents rose from 186 between April 2014 and March 2015 to 397 in the same period in 2016-2017.
Experts have linked the rise to a crackdown on the use of knives and guns, saying street gangs increasingly use corrosive substances, which are more readily available, instead.
The Metropolitan police said that the term noxious substances in their recording system mainly refers to corrosive substances and acids. The figures also include April 2017, when there were 45 crimes, up from 31 in April 2016.
The data confirms the impression given by a spate of reports of acid attacks in London. Earlier this week a 27-year-old man suffered severe burns after being squirted with acid as he walked with a woman in Mile End, east London.
Last month two Muslim cousins in east London were victims of an acid attack, which police are now treating as a hate crime. Jameel Mukhtar and Resham Khan were attacked while sitting in a car at traffic lights and both suffered severe burns. It follows an incident earlier this year when a noxious substance was launched across the Mangle club in east London, injuring 16 people.
On Wednesday 5 July a woman from Leicester who had poured sulphuric acid on her partner as he slept was ordered to pay him £19,300 ($25242.47) in compensation.
“The global pattern is very much males attacking young women and girls, relating to rejected sexual advances or marriage proposals or dowry-related attacks,” he says.
But most of the attacks in the U.K. are random and are often connected to robberies or gang violence. Many of the perpetrators are in their teens.
The latest attack on Tuesday in London left a 47-year-old man with facial injuries. Two assailants on a moped threw an unknown liquid in his face.
Sometimes the motorbikes, often used in acid attacks, are stolen; delivery drivers have also been targeted and staged a protest outside Parliament last month.
“You hear of these motorbikes coming up to you, someone throwing acid and then trying to take your cars or your mobile phone,” says Abdul Shohid, who owns a hardware store in East London.
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