Webinar – Public Policy Exchange – Tackling Acid Attacks: Strengthening Legislation, Reducing Access to Corrosive Substances & Increasing Convictions

Key Speakers

  • Councillor Olaoluwa Kolade, Cabinet Member for Community Safety at Croydon London Borough Council
  • Professor Simon Harding, Professor of Criminology & Director of the National Centre for Gang Research at University of West London
  • Dr Lucy Neville & Dr Matt Hopkins, Lecturer in Criminology & Associate Professor in Criminology at the University of Leicester

Per capita, the UK has one of the highest rates of recorded acid attacks in the world, and London has been described as the acid attack hotspot of the Western world. According to Acid Survivors Trust International (ASTI), the UK saw 452 reported acid attacks in 2017, increasing to 501 reported attacks in 2018. The number of violent offences in London involving acid or other corrosive liquid stood at 66 in 2012 but rose to 752 in 2019, according to Metropolitan Police statistics. ASTI report that of the 2078 acid attack crimes recorded in the UK during the period 2011-2016, only 414 of those resulted in charges being brought. More recent data from the Met Police found four out of five attacks never reach trial. Research suggests that many of the attacks are part of gang related activities and that acid is becoming the weapon of choice. Men tend to be the perpetrators and women are very often the victims of these attacks. Acid attacks can be used in robberies, burglaries, revenge attacks, during thefts of mopeds or to intimidate witnesses, in domestic violence, and due to religious or racial hatred.

The Offensive Weapons Act 2019 is the first piece of UK legislation to refer to corrosive substances in a criminal context and has made it an offence to possess a corrosive substance in a public place and to sell certain harmful corrosive products to under 18s. Following on from the 2017 expansion of stop and search powers more generally, in 2019 the then Home Secretary, Sajid Javid, provided the police with further stop and search powers to help them target those using corrosive materials illegally.

Speaking about the 2019 Act, Jabed Hussain, who had acid sprayed in his face by robbers trying to steal his bike in Hackney in 2017, said: “More needs to be done. The legislation is feeble and the criminals are smarter than the law.” Dr Simon Harding, associate professor in Criminology at the University of West London, has said that criminals had turned to acid because it is cheap, easily available and instils fear in both rivals and the public. ASTI have pointed out that many of the countries where acid violence occurs possess high levels of violence against women and that education is critical to combatting acid attacks. Writing in a March 2021 research paper, Matt Hopkins et al argue that preventative interventions could be developed, including controlling the availability of corrosive substances, developing legislation to deter potential offenders from possession and use, focusing on interventions that reduce the receptiveness of individuals to the idea of carrying and using corrosives, and working with communities where carrying and use is prevalent.

This symposium therefore offers police officers, community wardens, acid attack support groups and local authority members the opportunity to evaluate the impact of the Offensive Weapons Act on tackling acid attacks, assess how the legislation can be strengthened and conviction rates increased, develop ideas to support victims, and share best practice in preventing this cruel form of violence.


  • Examine the Offensive Weapons Act, its impact in tackling acid attacks and the case for strengthening the legislation
  • Establish an understanding of the motive behind acid attacks and how they relate to other serious crimes including gang violence and honour based violence
  • Analyse the best approaches for police to take when tackling acid attacks in local areas
  • Assess how to reduce access to acid and other corrosive substances
  • Examine why convictions for acid attacks are so low and how to increase convictions rates
  • Discover approaches to best supporting those whose life has been affected by acid attacks
  • Uncover the causes for the significant growth in acid attacks since the early 2010s
  • Understand the impact of ‘stop and search’ policies and how to utilise them effectively
  • Learn how retailers can help in the reduction of the sale of corrosive materials to dangerous individuals
  • Assess the criminal, policing, societal and cultural developments that have contributed to the rise in acid attacks over the last decade
  • Discuss preventative measures including, police officers carrying acid testing kits

Who Should Attend?

  • Crime and Disorder Reduction Partnerships
  • Community Safety Team
  • Community Rehabilitation Companies
  • Neighbourhood Policing Teams
  • Youth Offending Teams
  • Youth and Outreach Workers
  • Community Cohesion and Development Organisations
  • Community Support Officers
  • Accident and Emergency Departments
  • Local Authority Officers and Councillors
  • Domestic Violence Co-ordinators
  • Families Services Officers
  • Teachers and Head Teachers
  • Criminal Justice Practitioners
  • Judges and Magistrates
  • Legal Professionals
  • Third Sector Practitioners
  • Academics and Researchers
  • BME Development, Inclusion and Diversity Teams
  • Chief Constables and Senior Police Leadership Teams
  • Community Outreach, Cohesion and Integration Teams
  • Domestic Violence Teams and IDVAs
  • Home Office, UKBA and Central Government Agencies
  • MASH, MAPPA and MARAC Teams
  • Mental Health Teams
  • Multi-Agency Adult Protection Management Committees
  • Police and Crime Commissioners and Staff
  • Social Workers and Social Services Officers
  • Victim Support Teams
  • Police Hate Crime Units
  • Local Education Authorities
  • Local Voluntary Organisations
  • Neighbourhood Renewal Officers
  • General Practitioners
  • CAMHS Practitioners
  • Counselling Services

To register for the briefing, please click here.

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