In March, acid was listed as a highly dangerous weapon in new sentencing guidelines. Those caught carrying acid or likewise corrosive substances in public can face 6 months in jail under new guidelines. Those under the age of 18 could receive 4 months detention and training order.  If the substance is used to harm- this would be covered by sentencing and guidlines on assault, attempted murder or murder. The new guidelines match those already in place for knives.

Sentencing guidelines and offences update: corrosive substances

As reports of assaults and robberies involving the use of acid or likewise corrosive substances have increased, pressure comes with how offenders who attack are dealt with by courts.

The sentencing council is clear that corrosive substances factors high culpability on the part of the offender. In the assault guideline, using acid as a weapon indicates high culpability, which indicates a greater level of offence seriousness and likely a longer custodial sentence.

In the robbery guideline, the use of any corrosive substance to inflict violence places the offence in the highest category of culpability. Any offender who causes high levels of harm to a victim either physical or psychological, which can include use of corrosive substances, will be assessed as falling into the highest category of harm, this ultimately means lengthier sentencing.

The guidelines take in to the account the use of corrosive substances or acid categorised as a highly dangerous weapon. Possession or threats to use a highly dangerous weapon place the offender in the highest category of culpability.

Recent UK Sentences

  • Last year, a woman was convicted in Leicester Crown Court of attempted murder and sentenced to life in prison for attacking her housemate and partner with sulphuric acid. The attack took place whilst the victim was in bed; leaving him blind, disfigured, and in a coma for 6 weeks after attack.
  • A 19 year old teenager was jailed for 17 years at Reading Crown Court after what is believed to the first conviction for an acid attack killing in the UK, with sulphuric acid. The offender admitted manslaughter. The victim was taken to hospital and died 11 days later of multiple organ failure, after contacting septicaemia due to burns.
  • Last year, a man was jailed for 16 years in Beckton East London, for an acid attack on two cousins. The offender approached the vehicle in moving traffic and squirted acid into the car through both passenger windows. The offender ran around each side of the car and threw acid onto both victims from each window. CCTV shows the offend
    er trying to keep up with the car, by running alongside it.
  • The ringleader of a gang sprayed corrosive cleaning fluid in the face of a shopkeeper during a failed robbery was sentenced at Wood Green Crown Court and jailed for 10 years, with a further 4 years on license.

Retailers pledge not to sell harmful corrosives to under 18’s

Many large retailers and independent business leaders have pledged not to sell harmful corrosive substances to under 18’s.  In January, the government published details of the voluntary commitments, with retailers who have signed the pledge: Waitrose, B&Q, Morrison’s, Wickes, Co-op, Screwfix and Tesco are all brands to sign the pledge, on the responsible sale of corrosive substances.

The voluntary commitments listed in the pledge

  • not to sell products to under 18’s that contain harmful levels of acid or corrosive substances – and applying Challenge 21/25 policies for age identification, staff supported by till alerts, supervision and inclusion of these products in age restricted sales training.
  • equivalent age restriction measures are applied to products sold online
  • Comply with the Poisons Act and promote awareness to staff of products which contain levels of acid and other corrosive substances which are either regulated or reportable under the Act.

The pledge arose after the University of Leicester launched a research project commissioned by the Home Office into the motivations of violent acid attacks.

The research conducted included criminologists examining the motivations and decision making process behind carrying and using acid as a weapon, as well as the characteristics of offenders and relationships with their victims. The research also looked into how substances were purchased and transported.