Acid attacks need zero-tolerance approach, says Sadiq Khan

London mayor urges government to toughen sentencing guidelines for judges after spate of attacks in the capital

<!–[if IE 9]><![endif]–>Sadiq Khan at the ParaAthletics championships in London




Sadiq Khan said manufacturers and retailers of noxious substances needed to take more responsibility.
Photograph: S Bardens

Acid attacks need zero-tolerance approach, says Sadiq Khan

London mayor urges government to toughen sentencing guidelines for judges after spate of attacks in the capital

Judges should sentence those convicted of carrying acid just as harshly as those guilty of carrying other offensive weapons, the mayor of London has said, as he urged the government to adopt a “zero tolerance” approach following a recent spate of attacks in the capital.

Sadiq Khan said the attacks across London were “particularly frightening for those who ride a scooter”. Delivery drivers, who have been victims of acid attacks, have previously written to Khan to ask for a meeting to discuss the threats they face at work.

Jabed Hussain, an UberEats driver who was one of the victims of an apparent spree of acid attacks in London on Thursday, said delivery drivers had felt unsafe for months and called for the mayor to take action.

It is understood the deputy mayor for policing, Sophie Linden, will meet drivers to discuss their safety fears.

At the weekend, the home secretary, Amber Rudd, announced a wide-ranging review of the law enforcement and criminal justice response to acid attacks, of existing legislation, of access to harmful products and of the support offered to victims.

“I am clear that life sentences must not be reserved for acid attack survivors,” she wrote in the Sunday Times.

MPs are expected to use an adjournment debate in the House of Commons on Monday evening to push for tougher prosecuting guidelines for those who carry acid, not just those who use it.

Possession of acid or other corrosive substances with the intention to do harm currently carries a four-year maximum penalty, though guidance is expected to be reviewed.

Khan urged Rudd to change the law to recognise “people are now carrying these dangerous substances with the intention of using them as an offensive weapon.”

The Home Office minister Sarah Newton has said there would be a “review of sentencing … to make sure that people understand the powers they’ve got, understand the measures that can be in place and making sure that those penalties truly reflect the severity of the injuries”.

Five people were assaulted in north and east London in less than 90 minutes on Thursday night. A 16-year-old boy has been charged with 15 offences, including grievous bodily harm and possession of an item to discharge a noxious substance.

Khan said sentencing guidelines had not kept pace with the surge in criminality. “It is also important that we clarify sentencing guidelines for judges so that the full force of the law can be applied to those committing these truly appalling and life-changing crimes,” he said.

“The Metropolitan police take these attacks extremely seriously and are doing everything in their power to tackle them. However, we need a new zero-tolerance approach as a country if we are to rid the streets of this scourge.”

Khan said there should be an examination of access to harmful substances. “Just like a knife can be used lawfully in our kitchens or unlawfully by criminals, many of us use household cleaning products in our daily life,” he said.

“We now have to say to manufacturers and those in retail that they need to be more responsible and that means government looking at a change in how these products are sold.”

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