Acid attacks: UK retailers sign up to voluntary ban on acid sales
London: Sales of products containing dangerous levels of acids and corrosive substances have been banned in the UK for under 18s under a new voluntary government plan aimed at stopping growing acid attacks.
In the year to last April, police recorded more than 500 attacks in England and Wales, double the number five years ago, with the majority of incidents in London.
A fifth of attackers who had been identified were under 18 years old, the BBC reported on Sunday.
Under the voluntary ban, retailers will agree not to sell to under-18s any of their products that contain harmful levels of acid or other corrosive substances, such as powerful drain cleaners.
Staff will be expected to challenge buyers to prove their age in the same way that they do in relation to solvents, spray paints and knives.
The true level of acid crimes in the UK may be much higher than official records show, the report said.
A Freedom of Information request found the Metropolitan Police alone recorded over 450 noxious or corrosive fluid incidents in London in 2016.
A Home Office analysis estimated the true national rate could be as high as 900 crimes a year.
The Home Office has already proposed a new legislation to ban the sale of corrosive substances to under-18s as well as an additional offence of possession in a public place without a good reason.
This would bring the law for household acids and harmful chemicals that are not already subject to legal restrictions into line with crimes relating to knives. The public consultation on that proposal, which would have to go through Parliament, closed last month, the report said.
Meanwhile, Do It Yourself (DIY) chains like B&Q, Screwfix and Wickes have committed to impose their own voluntary bans on sales to under-18s, it said.
The British Independent Retailers Association, which includes independent DIY and hardware shops, will also ask its members to sign up to the new voluntary ban.
Crime minister Victoria Atkins said: "I'm pleased that so many of the UK's major retailers are joining our fight ... and signalling they are committed to selling acids responsibly.
"This is the next step of our acid attacks action plan that has already seen us consult on new laws to restrict young people's access to acids."
The Home Office has also announced that experts at the University of Leicester are set to start detailed research into the characteristics and motivations of attackers using corrosive substances.
Acid or other corrosive chemicals have been a weapon in a range of crimes, including revenge, so-called "honour crimes", gang violence and theft from delivery drivers.
In one of the most serious recent cases, a man who threw acid in a packed London nightclub, injuring 22 people, was jailed for 20 years.
Another man is facing trial later this year for the alleged murder of a woman who died after she was splashed with a corrosive substance.