Calls for number of Scottish acid attacks to be made public

Knox Academy High School, Haddington, where a schoolgirl was the victim of an acid attack.
Knox Academy High School, Haddington, where a schoolgirl was the victim of an acid attack.
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The growing profile of acid attacks has prompted calls for them to be recorded and made public in Scotland.

A number of recent incidents have taken place across the UK leading to demands for tougher sentences on perpetrators.

It has now emerged that the incidents of acid attacks are not recorded in Scotland, making it difficult to gauge the extent of the problem.

Earlier this week, teenage schoolgirl Emily Bowen was locked up over an acid attack which left a fellow pupil at Knox Academy in Haddington, East Lothian, scarred for life.

Now Tory MSP Rachael Hamilton is now calling for the incidents to be collated in light of recent incidents.

She said: “Acid attacks appear to be a fairly new phenomenon, and authorities are still getting to grips with how best to deal with them.

“But there’s no question they are becoming more of a problem, with a series of high-
profile incidents across the UK. That’s why it’s essential the Scottish Government starts collating these figures so we can assess the scale of the issue.

“Ministers are able to publish statistics on other crimes, and it’s now time for acid attacks to be included too.”

She added that support mechanisms must be put in place for victims and urged engagement with retailers to ensure harmful substances are sold responsibly.

Justice Secretary Michael matheson revealed in a parliamentary answer to Mrs Hamilton that information on the number of acid attacks over the past five years is not held centrally.

“The statistics for assault held do not differentiate when corrosive substances have or have not been used,” he said.

He added that the Scottish Government is committed to doing what it can to ensure communities are safe from harm, including taking steps on the availability of acid and similar chemicals.

He said ministers working closely with their UK Government counterparts on an action plan, which includes looking at online sales of acid materials which could be used in an attack.

The issue has become a particular problem in London where attackers on mopeds have taken to throwing acid in the face of pedestrian victims before robbing them.

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “Anyone who uses corrosive substances to attack another person can be prosecuted for assault and courts have wide-ranging powers to sentence up to life imprisonment. We always keep our criminal laws under review and that will include whether further steps are needed in relation to the carrying and use of corrosive substances.”