UK

Sale of acids to under-18s to be banned, Amber Rudd says

Amber Rudd Image copyright Reuters

The government will ban the sale of acids to anyone under the age of 18, Home Secretary Amber Rudd has said.

Her pledge, at the Conservative Party conference, comes as more than 400 attacks using corrosive substances were recorded in the six months to April.

She also said she would "drastically limit" sales of sulphuric acid, given that it can be used to make explosives.

And Ms Rudd called on internet firms and social media platforms to "act now" and remove extremist content online.

Speaking at the conference in Manchester, she said: "Acid attacks are absolutely revolting.

"We have all seen the pictures of victims that never fully recover - endless surgeries, lives ruined.

"So today, I am also announcing a new offence, to prevent the sale of acids to under-18s."

The government said new laws to target people caught carrying acid would be modelled on current legislation around knife carrying, which carries a maximum of four years in prison, a fine, or both.

Plans to tackle the sale of corrosive substances would be similar to the law involving knives, which bans the sale to anyone under the age of 18 and carries a penalty of six months in prison, or a fine.

"We are currently considering the range of substances this would cover," the government added.

More than 400 acid or corrosive substance attacks were carried out in the six months to April this year, according to figures from 39 police forces in England and Wales.

According to NHS Digital data, there have been 624 admissions since 2011/12 because of an "assault by corrosive substance". In 2016/17, there were 109 hospital admissions due to such attacks.

Mrs Rudd said the "drastic" crackdown on the sale of sulphuric acid would help tackle homemade explosive devices containing triacetone triperoxide - often referred to as "mother of Satan" explosives.

Similar devices were used in this year's Manchester Arena bombing and last month's attack at Parsons Green, in west London.

"This is how we help make our communities safer as crime changes," she told delegates.

Online images

The home secretary also unveiled plans to make it harder for people under the age of 18 to buy knives online and announced a major investment in technology to help track down indecent images of children online and remove them quickly.

She announced more than £500,000 of investment in a "cutting-edge web crawler", which experts say can process thousands of image hashes per second as a way of removing child abuse images.

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Media captionAndreas Christopheros was attacked with acid in 2013

Mrs Rudd told the conference there had been "an exponential surge in the volume of child sexual abuse referrals" and called on messaging service WhatsApp to help tackle the problem.

"Our investment will also enable internet companies to proactively search for, and destroy, illegal images in their systems," she said.

"We want them to start using it as soon as they can."

In another policy announcement, she also said people who repeatedly view extremist material online could face up to 15 years in prison.

She said extending prison sentence for those viewing extremist content online would close an important gap in the legislation, with tougher sentences only applying at the moment if people have downloaded or stored the material.

Ms Rudd told party activists in Manchester that security services had foiled seven terrorist plots this year.

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