Prison sentences for those who repeatedly carry corrosive substances without good reason for doing so are among a set of new laws being proposed by the Home Office with the key aim of tackling serious violence. The measures include a new offence of possession of a corrosive substance in public without a good or lawful reason. It would place the onus on the individual caught in possession to explain why they’re carrying such a substance, rather than on the police service to prove that the substance was intended to cause injury.
Those convicted of this offence for a second time would face a mandatory minimum sentence in line with the existing knife possession laws.
The proposals are part of the consultation on new legislation on offensive and dangerous weapons, which sets out legislative measures to reduce violent crime, respond to recent rises in police-recorded knife and firearms offences and deal with the emergence of attacks where acids and corrosive substances are used.
Home Secretary Amber Rudd explained: “All forms of violent crime are totally unacceptable, which is why we’re taking action to restrict access to offensive weapons and crack down on those who carry acids with intent to do harm. Acid attacks can devastate lives and leave the victims with both emotional and physical scars. By banning the sale of the most harmful corrosive substances to under 18s and introducing minimum custodial sentences for those who repeatedly carry corrosive substances with intent to cause harm, we’re sending a message that the cowards who use these substances as weapons will not escape the full force of the law.”
Other measures on which the Government will consult are new offences pertaining to the sale of acids and the most harmful corrosive substances to people aged under 18, possession of a corrosive substance in public and restricting online sales of knives such that they cannot be delivered to a private residential address and must instead be collected at a place where age ID can be checked and verified.
Further measures included in the Government’s consultation include:
*amendments to threatening with a knife or offensive weapon offences in order to lower the evidential requirement for prosecutors
*allowing the police to seize offensive weapons already banned in public places from private properties
*prohibiting knives (currently banned on school premises) from other educational institutions such as colleges
*updating the current legislation on the definition of flick knives (in order to reflect new knife designs)
*moving two firearms (.50 calibre and certain rapid firing rifles) from the general licensing arrangements to the stricter provisions of Section 5 of the Firearms Act 1968
Members of the public are encouraged to submit their opinions on the consultation which will remain open until Saturday 9 December.
The Home Office will also review the Poisons Act and include sulphuric acid, meaning that it would only be available to purchase above a certain concentration if the individual concerned holds the appropriate licence to do so.
Sarah Newton, the Minister for Crime, Safeguarding and Vulnerability, has also announced the launch of the £500,000 Community Fund for local projects aimed at tackling knife crime in tandem with more than £280,000 of successful bids for community work aimed at ending gang violence and exploitation.
Newton stated: “We know these crimes cannot be ended with legislation alone. We need wide-ranging action, including support for communities to take action. This is why I’m pleased to announce that we’re awarding just over £280,000 worth of funding to projects right across the country in order to help people avoid and escape a life of gangs and violence. We’re also inviting bids for a new £500,000 Community Fund designed to help grassroots organisations in combating the scourge of knife crime.”