A speech by Tory MP Amber Rudd last week announced a new – and long overdue –
initiative, to try to rein in the acid attacks that have become endemic in London. The
stipulations of the intended legislation would ban people carrying acid in public places
“without good reason”, and the sale of acids to under 18 year olds.
While I do, to an extent, applaud these attempts on the part of the government to respond to
the recent, frightening, and frankly horrific rise in acid attacks in the UK, there is a disturbing
lack of severity in the terms of the proposed reforms. In fact, the very wording of Rudd’s
proposal begs a couple of vital questions: firstly, what exactly constitutes a ‘good reason’ to
carry acid in a public setting?
The most obvious, everyday excuse I can think of is for cleaning purposes. But, with such a
large range of common and effective household cleaning products having little to no acid
content, there is no way that spring cleaning can be allowed to be a ‘good reason’. Period.
Admittedly, there will be people out there who may need concentrated acidic substances for
industrial purposes, or as part of their trade. This is not, however, an insurmountable obstacle.
In fact, a petition on change.org, started in response to the attack on 21-year- old Resham
Khan and her cousin earlier this year, offers a fairly obvious and easy enough solution.
Sarmad Ismail’s petition pushes for the introduction of a registration system, stating that a
person ‘should only be allowed to purchase corrosive substances with a licence to buy’.
The introduction of a system like this could stop people who don’t have a ‘good reason’ to be
in possession of acid from ever actually acquiring it. Considering the devastating potential of
acidic substances, the introduction of such requirements makes perfect sense, and it’s
somewhat disturbing that this kind of legislation is not already in place.
A second question that should be asked in response to Rudd’s announcement, is why should
acids still be readily available for purchase by potential culprits who are over the age of 18?
While there have been a number of under 18 year olds charged with carrying out the recent
attacks, they are by no means the only demographic in need of regulating. Just a quick look
through details of the attacks of the last few months shows that a large portion of attackers
are in their early- to mid-twenties, well past the to-be- introduced age limit. Plus, with a lot of
the attacks being gang-related, the fact that the younger perpetrators may not always be the
ones purchasing the acid needs to be taken into consideration.
Unfortunately then, despite tougher regulations being on the horizon, there are just too many
holes to be able to feel at ease. Unless the government decides to step up their crackdown, the
rapidly rising rates of acid attacks may slow, but they will by no means stop. And that’s just
not good enough.
(Image courtesy of The Independent)