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2nd December 2018 Self defence and acid attacks

Acid attacks are a problem in the UK and escalated until reaching a peak in 2016. There has since been a decline in number of attacks but they are still happening, some newstories include:

Edinburgh woman seriously injured after doorstep acid attack

Supermarket aisle acid attacker jailed for four years

Although called “acid attacks” any corrosive substance can be used, even bleach and highly alkaline cleaning products.

The attack can take seconds, have devastating and permanent results, the perpetrator can escape quickly and innocent bystanders can get caught up in the crossfire.

A technique used to threaten victims for theft, a small corner shop in Norwich was robbed by a masked thief brandishing a bottle of liquid.

It’s a popular belief that the majority of attacks are honour crimes, but the truth is they are not even a modern problem

“We’ve had acid throwing in this country for over 200 years, and there’s been a new development of it,” said Dr Harding. “But it’s not new and it’s not imported.”

Findings by the Metropolitan Police

  • The suspect was male 74% of the time and victim was male 67% of the time
  • Just 6% of suspects were Asian
  • Only one so-called ‘honour’ attack was recorded in 15 years
  • Four out of five violent offences never reached trial

The average age of victims in London was 30, whilst the average age of suspects was 24-25

The law

At the peak of the number of acid attacks, the law was not specific to the crime. In the UK it was only covered within the dangerous weapon bracket. It was the Conservative government who relaxed laws in 2015 making it no longer necessary for retailers of dangerous substances to register with their local councils, despite objections that this would cause an increase in acid attacks.

What is being done about it?

With the sharp increase in attacks in 2016, the following year the former Home Secretary Amber Rudd announced plans to ban the sale of corrosive substances to under 18s, bringing acid in line with the law on the possession of knives in a public place and anyone caught could be imprisoned for up to 4 years.

Recent changes

From the 1st of June 2018, anyone caught in possession of acid twice would serve a minimum six-month prison sentence, with under-18s given a four-month detention and training order – mirroring previous sentences for knives.

From the 1st of November it is only possible for members of the public to buy sulphuric acid over 15% concentration by applying for a home office licence – this comes as part of the government crack down on violent crime. (Further reading on crime statistics can be found by following the link).

With the change in laws, acid attacks are falling and do only represent a small fraction of violent attacks in the UK, as with all threats it makes sense to have a plan of action.

Self defence skills

Self defence skills should include awareness of your situation. This is going to be your first layer of protection. It’s not necessary to be constantly expecting the unexpected, however taking note of changes in the environment or people’s proximity will keep you one step ahead of any potential issues, trust your gut instinct and have a plan of action that kicks into action without giving it a moments thought.

If you are present at an attack, knowing what to do if you or someone else chemical burns could make a big difference to the outcome.

Acid attack first aid

What to do with any kind of chemical burn

  • Dilute the acid with clean water if it is a liquid, brush off if it is in powder form
  • Rinse with sterile saline solution
  • Remove any clothing or jewellery near the burnt area of skin However, don’t try to remove anything that’s stuck to the burnt skin as this could cause more damage
  • Continue to cool the burn with lukewarm clean, fresh water for 20-60 minutes, as soon as possible after the injury
  • Don’t apply any creams, acrifex, burnese etc
  • Do apply sterile gauze, layer cling film over the burn where possible

Even just knowing what to do in the event of an attack will put you in a better place than not knowing, and you may be able to help others with the knowledge of chemical burn first aid.