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Until recently, the legal scope around corrosive liquid attacks has been minimal. With little restrictions upon purchase or possession, it has been hard to manage this recent wave in attacks. Originally there was a two strike rule, being that if you’re caught carrying a corrosive substance on the streets once, you get a strike; caught a second time without good reason, it is an automatic six months in prison. However, this is extremely hard to keep on top of with corrosive liquids being a part of many domestic products like drain cleaner. This “two strikes” rule follows the same principals of the possession of knives. 

After the spike in attacks over the past few years, the government announced plans enforcing new restrictions of carrying a corrosive substance without a plausible reason. Currently, corrosive substances are treated as offensive weapons, which can result in a sentence of a maximum of four years in prison if caught on a person. 

As it stands, there is currently no offence specified to carrying out an attack involving corrosive liquid. Rather the attacker would be liable for the more general criminal violations under the The Offences against the Person Act 1861. The person in question would likely be convicted of these offences:

·     Section 18 - Wounding/causing grievous bodily harm with intent (maximum sentence: life imprisonment)

·     Section 20 - Unlawful wounding/inflicting grievous bodily harm (maximum sentence: five years)

·     Section 29 - Sending, throwing or using explosive or corrosive substance or noxious thing with intent to do grievous bodily harm (maximum sentence: life imprisonment)

Carrying a corrosive substance in a public place with intent to cause harm could also be prosecuted as possession of an offensive weapon under section 1 of the Prevention of Crime Act 1953.

In April 2018, as part of the Offensive Weapons Bill, government have announced plans to ban the sale of acid to under-18s. They are also preparing to extend stop and search powers to allow police to seize corrosive substances from members of the public. Andreas Christopheros has been campaigning for tougher laws since his attack in 2014 and is over-joyed with this news. 

Former Home Secretary, Amber Rubb said:

“That’s why we will introduce a new Offensive Weapons Bill that includes a new offence of possessing acid in public without good reason, prevents sales of acids to under 18s and stops knives being sent to people’s homes when bought online.

I see no good reason why any young person should be carrying a corrosive substance in the street, so I am also announcing that we will consult on extending stop and search powers to include acid. Stop and search is a vital policing tool and officers will always have the government’s full support to use these powers properly.”

Sulfuric acid is one of the most frequent substance that in used in acid attacks. The Home Office has now announced that sulfuric acid has been added to the list of regulated explosives precursors that fall under the Poisons Act 1972. This means members of the public will require a license to acquire, posses and use the substance. 

However, the question we have, is does this apply to the One Shot drain cleaner containing 91% sulfuric acid?

Written by Ellie Smeaton

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