A 16-year-old male has been charged over five acid attacks in London, as the British Government prepares to clamp down.
The teenager is charged with 15 offences including grievous bodily harm and possession of an item to discharge a noxious substance, the Metropolitan Police said. He has been remanded in custody to appear before Stratford Youth Court tomorrow. Five acid attacks took place in north and east London in less than 90 minutes on Friday.
Ministers have grown alarmed at the apparent spike in acid attacks, which some have claimed is a result of tougher laws on knife crime. Some 408 acid or "corrosive substance" attacks were recorded between November 2016 to April 2017, according to the National Police Chiefs' Council.
Bleach, ammonia and acid were the most commonly used substances, while one in five of known offenders were under 18 years old.
Thugs caught carrying acid with the intent of attacking someone should be jailed for up to four years, prosecutors will be told amid concern that incidents are on the rise. Official sentencing guidance will be reviewed and reissued amid fears that acid attackers are getting off lightly because the laws are being misapplied.
The number of substances that shopkeepers are legally bound to inform the police about if they are bought by suspicious people could also be extended.
Police said the teenager has been charged with one count of GBH with intent, one count of possession of an item to discharge a noxious substance, three counts of robbery, one count of handling stolen goods, four counts of attempted robbery and five counts of attempted GBH with intent. Earlier, a 15-year-old male who was arrested at an address in Stoke Newington on Saturday on suspicion of grievous bodily harm and robbery was released on bail until a date in early August.
Scotland Yard said the investigation into the attacks remains ongoing. Five separate male victims - all on mopeds - were allegedly targeted by two moped-riding attackers.
Food delivery rider Jabed Hussain, 32, who works for UberEATS, had his moped stolen and his face sprayed with liquid. He was the victim of the first attack at traffic lights on Hackney Road on his way home from work. "Suddenly I heard the sound of water. I was just screaming because it's burning on my face, and I'm just screaming for the water."
A female passerby stopped to help Hussain, who was taken to an east London hospital. His injuries are not being treated as life-changing.
Little more than 20 minutes after the first attack, a 44-year-old moped driver was sprayed with a searing liquid at the Upper Street junction with Highbury Corner in Islington. The victim was taken to a hospital in north London. His vehicle was not stolen. Then, police were called after attackers targeted a man in Shoreditch High Street, tossing a substance in his face. His injuries were not life-threatening and his moped was not stolen, police said. Within 15 minutes, a corrosive substance was hurled at a man on Upper Clapton Road, causing "life-changing" facial injuries. Another man was confronted as he sat on his moped in traffic in Chatsworth Road. Liquid was sprayed in his face and his moped was stolen by the attackers, who then fled.
Ministers will announce a new approach to the problem. The Crown Prosecution Service will review guidance for prosecutors about how to handle acid cases. There are fears that the current rules - that allow someone carrying acid with intent to attack to get up to four years in jail because it is deemed a dangerous weapon - are not being adhered to. A review of the Poisons Act 1972 will take place. This lists substances that shopkeepers are obliged to report to police if a customer is deemed suspicious, such as being reluctant to give an address. Police will also be issued with new guidance on preventing acid attacks, while Government ministers will talk to retailers about further restricting the sale of acids.
Rashem Khan, who was left with life-changing injuries last month when she and her cousin Jameel Muhktar were attacked, said that acid can be bought too "easily from any hardware store", adding that it was "about time that the law changes".