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Six acid attacks in three years sparks call for crackdown

By Allan Preston

Published 14/01/2016

SDLP MLA Patsy McGlone
SDLP MLA Patsy McGlone

Corrosive liquids have been used in six attacks on people here over the past three years, the PSNI has revealed.

The figures were released as it emerged that violent crimes involving acid and other corrosive liquids had soared by 30% across the UK over the past two years.

The PSNI said there had been six offences involving corrosive substances between 2012 and 2015. Three of the victims were male and three female.

Bleach was used in four of the attacks, white spirit in one and an unknown substance in another.

The figures included offences in which there was no injury but there were threats to kill or attack.

Stormont justice committee chairman Alastair Ross of the DUP said acid attacks should be treated seriously.

"It's clear that these liquids are capable of having the same effect as a gun or any other weapon, and therefore any crime involving them must be taken as seriously. There should be a strong message sent out by the courts that this type of crime will not be tolerated or seen as less serious," he said.

"I recognise the problem this poses for the police in trying to apprehend people. Some of these substances are household liquids and can reasonably be excused when someone is stopped with them in their possession. In this instance, it is very different to a knife or a gun.

"We must ensure our processes are reviewed and seen to be the most effective in tackling such horrific, sadistic and cruel crime."

Across the UK there have been more than 500 incidents in which people have been threatened or attacked with harmful substances.

There were 242 such offences in 2014-15, and 186 in 2012-13, according to figures obtained by the Press Association.

The SDLP's Patsy McGlone called for stiffer court sentences for those convicted of acid attacks. The Mid Ulster MLA asked: "Why should anyone have these acids or corrosive substances in their possession in the first place?

"If they do have them with the intent to disfigure or harm someone, and we've seen nasty images in the Press of people who've been left terribly disfigured, they should be receiving much stricter and harsher sentences."

Jaf Shah, director of the Acid Survivors Trust International, said: "The Government needs to look into this subject with far greater seriousness to understand why these attacks are occurring and what can be done to prevent them occurring."

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