The British government is looking to toughen penalties for perpetrators of acid attacks following a spree of horrific assaults with chemical substances in London on Thursday.
U.K. Interior Minister Amber Rudd announced Sunday that officials are considering new measures to confront the rise of acid attacks, including urging courts to impose life sentences in certain cases and requiring age checks for those buying corrosive substances.
Rudd also said the government would review criminal guidelines to ensure that acid and other corrosive chemicals are classified as dangerous weapons, so attackers who use acid will “feel the full force of the law.”
“We can and will improve our response,” Rudd wrote in the Times of London. “It will include a wide-ranging review of the law enforcement and criminal justice response, of existing legislation, of access to harmful products and of the support offered to victims.”
Rudd emphasized that criminal penalties should reflect the severity of acid attacks, which often leave victims permanently disfigured and psychologically scarred.
“I am clear that life sentences must not be reserved for acid attack survivors,” she wrote.
Moped riders carried out five acid attacks in less than 90 minutes across east London on Thursday, leaving several people with facial burns. The attacks were part of a disturbing trend in London in which people have used acid or similar substances as a weapon. (RELATED: Duo Terrorizes London With Series Of ‘Completely Barbaric’ Acid Attacks)
Since 2010, there have been more than 1,800 instances of acid or chemical fluid attacks in the city, reports the BBC. Last year, it was used in 458 crimes, up from 261 in 2015, according to London police data.
London police have arrested two boys, ages 15 and 16, in connection with Thursday’s attacks. In one of the attacks, police say, the teens threw acid in the face of a 32-year-old delivery driver and stole his moped. They allegedly carried out four similar attacks in less than two hours while riding around the city on a moped.
Sarah Newton, the U.K. minister for crime, safeguarding and vulnerability, said Sunday the government’s response to the acid attack problem could include tighter controls on the sale and possessions of certain chemicals. Preventing people from getting their hands on corrosive substances could prove difficult, she conceded, because so many are found in everyday household products.
“You do know, there is a licensing regime but the problem is that a lot of the chemicals that are being used are under your sink, in your bathroom, readily available,” Newton said.
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