Northamptonshire crime chief to write to Home Secretary to call for tougher sentences on acid attackers

Protestors take to the streets in London after a spate of incidents in the capital
Protestors take to the streets in London after a spate of incidents in the capital

Acid attack thugs should be handed tougher sentences according to the county’s police and crime commissioner, following a spate of alleged incidents in the county.

Stephen Mold has even pledged to write to the home secretary Amber Rudd in a bid to see harsher punishments dished out for the life-changing crimes, the Chronicle and Echo can reveal this week.

Northamptonshire has seen a rise in acid attacks

Northamptonshire has seen a rise in acid attacks

His call came after the NHS revealed the amount of people requiring specialist treatment for acid attacks had doubled since 2014.

Mr Mold said: “The rise in acid attacks across the country is deeply concerning. This is an extremely violent assault that leaves victims with life changing injuries. In my view the punishment must reflect the severity of the crime.

“We need to deter individuals from perpetrating these horrific attacks and I have written to the Home Secretary outlining my support for much tougher sentencing.”

Chief inspector for Northamptonshire Police David Lawson confirmed that acid attacks were on the rise in Northamptonshire too, particularly as there is a perception among thugs that “it is a better alternative to carrying a knife.”

But he said the force has now issued its officers with fresh guidance on how to spot concealed bottles of damaging substances.

He said: “This is a different problem (to knives).

“But our job is about making the public aware that if you carry this sort of thing, you are going to be dealt with very seriously.”

Chief insp Lawson said that his officers were not about to start confiscating goods from anyone carrying over-the-counter cleaning products, but added that people trying to conceal bottles would be treated suspiciously.

Recent cases include an alleged acid attack in the early hours of the morning in The Drapery, Northampton where four people were splashed with a “noxious substance.”

Just last week a Daventry couple had acid squirted at them by two people as they waited at a zebra crossing in Park Leys.

In both cases, alleged victims were targeted as they left pubs and clubs.

But secretary for the county’s Pubwatch scheme Kate Bailey, said those who run pubs and clubs have a tough job in spotting would-be attackers.

She said: “There is not an awful lot (pub owners) can do to prevent this sort of thing.

“Unless you can get close to an open vessel to sniff it, you are not going to know whether they are carrying a bottle of water or something malicious.

“In the short term the best thing we can do is get that advice out there of how to treat people quickly.”

One victim of the alleged Drapery attack claimed to have spent six hours in hospital as a result of chemical burns.

“The chemical got in my eye, burnt underneath my eye and left a few marks on my arm,” she told the Chron.

“There was a guy called Kyle who helped me rinse out my eye before the ambulance arrived. I’ve never met him before, but it brought back my faith in humanity.”

Acid can be bought over the counter

Part of the issue facing police is that hazardous substances can be bought over the counter.

Household drain cleaner containing sulphuric acid can cause severe burns and dissolve skin and even bone - but it can be bought from as little as £5 a litre.

A common patio cleaner was used in one of the London assaults, while hydrochloric acid or ammonia, can also be bought over the counter at almost any DIY store.

Alan Gale, who owns Home Supplies in White Hills Crescent, said shopkeepers are currently faced with a difficult task identifying those buying acid for criminal purposes but are developing ways of tackling the issue.

Eight arrests made in the county over suspected acid attacks

Acid attacks have hit the headlines here in Northamptonshire following a number of incidents this summer alone.

An 18-year-old man, 23-year-old man and 22-year-old woman were arrested in connection with a suspected acid attack in Park Leys, Daventry, last week.

A couple had allegedly been targeted as they made their way across a zebra crossing at 1.30am.

Four people charged with splashing four people with ammonia in Northampton town centre in a separate incident are currently awaiting a trial.

Jake Price, 22, Taishon Whittaker, 26, and Frank Taylor, 24, all from Wellingborough, appeared alongside Ijuha Sterling-Campbell, from Ecton, at Northampton Crown Court on August 23. They all pleaded not guilty to maliciously throwing the noxious substance on the morning of July 23. A trial date is yet to be set. Arthur Collins the 25-year-old former boyfriend of reality TV star Ferne McCann, was arrested in the county on April 23, following an alleged incident at a London nightclub.

Police were called to the nightclub on Sidworth Street in Dalston, at 1.10am on Monday, April 17, after a noxious substance was sprayed. A week later he was arrested in Rushden by officers from the Met’s Specialist Crime & Operations.

Collins was arrested on suspicion of attempted murder and was taken into custody. A number of people suffered burns during the alleged attack with two blinded in one eye.

Q & A

How do you define an acid attack?

So-called ‘acid attacks’, where corrosive substances are used as part of a violent assault or robbery, have become increasingly prominent, with a series of high-profile incidents this year. As well as significant harm caused to individuals, the NHS estimates that the average cost of care for a victim requiring specialist burns treatment, eye care, rehabilitation and mental health treatment is £34,500.

Is it on the rise?

The assistance for victims comes as new data from NHS England show the number of people requiring specialist medical help for this type of assault is on the rise. In 2014, 16 people required specialist medical advice, rising to 25 in 2015 and increasing further to 32 last year. The level of demand for specialist burns help so far in 2017 suggests there will be another rise in patient numbers this year.

What should I do if I see a victim of an acid attack?

Whilst the overall number of people impacted by this type of attack remains low, people are advised to take three simple steps in the event they witness or are victim of an attack:

· Report the attack: dial 999.

· Remove contaminated clothing carefully.

· Rinse skin immediately in running water.