Acid sales 'should be restricted' to prevent attacks

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Media captionWayne Ingold suffered severe burns after an acid attack in 2014

Much stricter controls should be imposed on the sale of acid to help reduce the number of people injured in attacks, a charity has said.

Jaf Shah of the Acid Survivors Trust International said a licensing system should be introduced to ensure all purchasers' details were recorded.

Currently shops must report someone to the police only if they feel they are acting suspiciously when they buy acid.

The Home Office said attackers faced a life sentence on conviction.

Mr Shah told the BBC's Victoria Derbyshire programme: "Acid is far too easily available in hardware stores and online. The government can do a great deal more in terms of tightening the controls around the sale of acid.

"You can introduce a licensing system which requires individuals purchasing acid to record their details, that would help the police in their investigation process. I would make a strong case that there should be a restriction on the sale of acid to anyone under the age of 18."

Wayne Ingold's story

Wayne Ingold, 57, from Essex, was attacked with acid in 2014 in a case of mistaken identity in his flat's communal area.

"The pain was unbelievable. I put my right hand up to protect my face and as I turned to run back to my flat, they kept throwing it at the back of my head," he explained.

"I ran into the en-suite and looked into the mirror and my face had turned yellow. It looked like it was melting candle wax... the pain was immense.

"When I came out of hospital my face was black, some of my teeth too - everyone was staring and pointing, I was embarrassed."

Mr Ingold underwent surgery and skin grafts for burns to his face, hands, neck, arms and shoulder.

"It affected my life quite badly in the first couple of months because I was scared of repercussions, I couldn't go back to my home - I had to move."

Police had believed the attackers had also been injured by the acid and caught them after contacting hospitals to ask if anyone had sought treatment.

Earlier this month, two teenagers were jailed for five and three years for the attack.

Mr Ingold believes corrosive substances are too easily available to buy.

"It's cheap and easy to come by - that's pretty appalling really. The government needs to put some kind of legislation out there.

"To buy a knife you have to be 18. It should be the same for acid or corrosive liquids."

Figures for England from the Health and Social Care Information Centre, which collates statistics for the NHS, suggest the number of people admitted to hospital due to an assault with a corrosive substance has doubled in the past 10 years.

In 2004-05 there were 55 admissions, while there were 109 in 2013-14. These did not include people injured in military incidents.

The figures show that in the six years since 2009-10, the figures have remained at about 100 admissions each year.

'Difficult to prevent'

The National Police Chiefs' Council lead for violence and public protection, deputy chief constable Andrew Cooke, said it was impossible for police to prevent people from buying acid.

"An awful lot of materials in these attacks can be used for legitimate purposes, only a very small amount are used in this kind of attack. It's difficult to prevent people buying these substances online and in shops," he said.

"All we can do is to get the education message out, the intelligence message out, and target the people who may have the propensity to commit these kind of offences [by] working hard to prevent domestic violence and hate crime - offences that might lead to this kind of attack."

Image caption Wayne Ingold needed a series of operations and skin grafts following an acid attack on 8 August 2014

Government guidelines state that sulphuric acid is a "reportable explosives precursor" and suspicious transactions must be reported to the police.

The reasons why a seller may be suspicious include if the buyer cannot plausibly explain its intended use, aims to buy it in uncommon quantities, insists on unusual payment methods or is unwilling to provide proof of identity or address.

A Home Office spokeswoman said: "There is no place in society for these sickening attacks and perpetrators face a life sentence if they are convicted.

"We want to get a true picture of this type of crime and we need victims to know they can come forward with the confidence their allegation will be taken seriously and be properly investigated by police."

The Victoria Derbyshire programme is broadcast on weekdays between 09:15 and 11:00 on BBC Two and the BBC News channel.

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