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Acid attacks seen by gang members as safer form of crime, campaigner says

Jaf Shah said the number of such incidents recorded in the UK has “effectively doubled” in the last three years.

Gang members see acid attacks as a “safer” form of crime, a campaigner has said, as he called for its possession to be criminalised.

Jaf Shah said carrying the corrosive liquid should carry the same penalty as possessing a knife to help tackle an “explosion” of attacks in the UK.

The executive director of the Acid Survivors Trust International charity also called on the Government to regulate the sale of concentrated acid.

The measures could include an age restriction or ban on cash sales of the fluid, which can be bought in DIY shops or hardware stores for as little as £7 or £8 a litre.

Speaking after two males on a moped carried out five acid attacks across London in less than 90 minutes, Mr Shah said the number of such incidents recorded in the UK has “effectively doubled” in the last three years.

“In terms of attacks we are seeing a substantial increase,” he told the Press Association.

“It’s not new, it has been happening for over 200 years, and has often been linked to gang-related violence.

“But we have seen an explosion in the number of incidents over the last couple of years.”

Mr Shah explained that the reasons behind the spike are complicated, but suggested the clampdown on guns and knives has seen criminals turn to acid as a weapon of choice.

“In a way, it’s almost like a safer crime to commit, especially for gang members perhaps lower down the hierarchy,” he said.

There is currently no specific offence for carrying concentrated acid, and he said it “should be brought into line with knife crime”.

Mr Shah called on the Government to introduce a licensing system, requiring registration with the Home office for the legitimate purchase of concentrated acid, which is used in agriculture, as well as the jewellery and clothing industries.

He also suggested banning cash sales and introducing an age restriction.

Globally, most acid attack victims are women and girls but in the UK men are more likely to be targets, with recorded numbers in Britain now higher than countries such as Colombia, India and Pakistan.

“The UK now has one of the highest numbers of recorded incidents in the world,” said Mr Shah,

He said better data collection by police and hospitals would help to identify the causes of the worrying trend while better education is needed to address its underlying causes.

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