Acid attackers 'should be given tougher sentences'

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A Home Office minister today expressed concern that the courts are failing to punish acid attackers severely enough.

Sarah Newton said the Government was talking to prosecutors and courts to encourage “very strong sentencing to act as a deterrent”.

In theory, such attackers can be already found guilty of grievous bodily harm and face up to life imprisonment.  But Ms Newton indicated she is not satisfied with the sentences meted out to young people who carry acid or use it as a weapon.

“We are looking at what further restrictions we can put in place by using the Poisons Act, by making sure that the criminal justice system understands how to prosecute these offences so they have very strong sentencing to act as a deterrent,” she told Sky News.But there were mixed signals as MPs pressed for new laws to stop the sale of acids to children and criminals following the wave of horrific attacks in  London.

Met Commissioner Cressida Dick said current  restrictions “absolutely” need to be looked and that it was “easier” than it ought to be to buy chemicals that can cause “horrific injuries”.

She added: “That is what we are talking to the Home Office about. Why on earth would a normal person need sulphuric acid, for example, why would you need that?”

Ms Dick said there was nothing new about using household liquids like ammonia to harm people and urged parents to keep an eye on their  children. “All of us need to make sure that if someone in our family appears to be purchasing such a substance, we challenge them.”

But Ms Newton said a ban was  difficult because bleaches and acids that could be weapons are used in every home as cleaning products.

“These substances will be under your kitchen sink, they will be next to your loo,” she said.

London MP Stephen Timms, who will be leading a Commons debate on the issue on Monday, said carrying acid should be an offence and its sale, which currently needs no ID checks, should be licensed.

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