The number of acid attacks has doubled in the past five years amid fears corrosive substances are becoming “a weapon of choice”.
Figures revealed on Wednesday show a sharp rise in attacks in the capital, from 259 in 2011 to 431 in the past year. A similar trend was found in the West Midlands and a 30 percent rise was found nationwide, The Times reported.
On Monday, an attack in an east London nightclub left twelve injured, two seriously, when a substance was hurled at revellers. Police said they are searching for the boyfriend of a reality TV star in connection with the incident.
Another acid attack was reported in Bow on Tuesday when a man threw a “noxious substance” at a driver during a carjacking.
And a family walking in Islington, north London, were badly burned during an attack on Saturday.
A leading campaign group said the true extent of the problem may not be fully understood, as acid attacks often go unreported.
“These attacks are likely to be underreported,” Jaf Shah, executive director of Acid Survivors Trust International told The Huffington Post UK. “There will be cases where attacks have taken place but not reported due to the fear of reprisal, due to gang activity and the fear of further repercussions.”
Those accused of using acid as a weapon are often charged with grievous bodily harm - while the use of knives and guns is considered more serious by the courts.
“These loopholes suggest to me that more and more young men are using this as a weapon of choice,” Shah said.
He appealed for the government to place “serious controls” on the sale of potent substances.
“We have advocated a licensing system, to produce less concentrated forms of acid, and to limit cash sales to aid the tracing of purchases,” Shah said. “There are a number of actions the government can take.”
In 2015, then Prime Minister David Cameron pledged his support for a campaign to tighten restrictions on the sale of acids.
“I am prepared to do whatever I can to tackle this,” he said. “It’s a hideous crime and the criminal justice system needs to respond. It can send out very strong signals and it needs to in this case.”
However, despite the tough stance, changes to legislation have yet to occur.
A Home Office spokesperson said: “Acid attacks are truly horrific crimes and those convicted face a life sentence.
“We are actively working with the police to tackle the issue and the National Police Chiefs’ Council are collating force data to better understand the scale and extent of the crime.
“We are also working with retailers to identify the best means of restricting sales of products that may be used in attacks - with many already taking action.”
The National Police Chiefs Council had yet to respond to requests for comment at time of publication.