A spate of acid attacks in Britain in recent months has led the UK government to characterise acid as a “highly dangerous weapon” for the first time.
The Sentencing Council’s new guidelines published mean that judges in the UK would be able to impose harsher punishments on anyone found to be carrying acid and other corrosive substances in public.
It forms part of efforts to crack down on attacks using such substances, with more than 400 recorded in England and Wales in just six months up to April 2017.
Attacks across London alone rose from 260 in 2015 to 426 in the first 10 months of 2017, according to officials figures.
Under the new guidelines, adults convicted of carrying a corrosive substance in public for a second time will be given a minimum six-month jail term, and under-18s will be handed a four-month detention and training order.
These sentences match those already in place for possession of knives and impose the same minimum sentences for anyone convicted of threatening someone with acid or other offensive weapons.
The new advice states: “An offensive weapon is defined in legislation as ‘any article made or adapted for use for causing injury’.
“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,” the Sentencing Council adds.
Acid or other corrosive chemicals have been used as weapons in a range of crimes, including revenge, so-called “honour crimes”, gang violence and theft from delivery drivers.
The UK Home Office said it will shortly announce its response to last year’s consultation process on enacting new legislation banning sales of corrosives to under 18s and introducing a new offence for possessing corrosive products in a public space.
Meanwhile, the new sentencing guidelines come into force in England and Wales from June 1. PTI