Acid Attacks - New Laws out now

Following a spate of serious assaults recently involving the use of acids and other corrosive substances there has been a change in the law in an attempt by the government to control their use.

At present there are approximately 15 offences per week involving such substances which often leave victims with horrendous life changing injuries.

In January 2018, the Home Office announced a voluntary agreement with a number of the larger retailers in who have made commitments regarding the responsible sales of corrosive substances which includes not selling products containing the most harmful substances to under 18s. The agreement has been developed with the British Retail Consortium and tested with the British Independent Retailers Association and Association of Convenience in an attempt to ensure that the commitments were proportionate and worked in the retail environment.

The retailers who have signed up to the commitments are: Wickes, Screwfix, B&Q, Wilko, Waitrose, John Lewis, Tesco, the Co-op, Morrisons, Aldi UK, Lakeland, Asda and Homebase.

Recent developments

In addition to this, as of the 1st November 2018 new legislation is in force to further control members of the public possessing corrosive substances.

The Poisons Act 1972 makes controls on corrosive substances that can be used as poisons or as explosives precursors and requires that persons who import, acquire or possess such substances will require a licence issued by the Home Office.

Parliament has now enacted a statutory instrument which makes sulphuric acid a “regulated substance” if concentration levels are above 15%.

Although this legislation is not designed to limit access to corrosive substances used to assault people, its impact is to restrict access to some of the most harmful substances of concern.

What is the penalty for possession sulphuric acid?

Any offence contrary to Section 3 of the Poisons Act 1972 which includes possessing, acquiring, importing or using (for example processing or storing) carries the same maximum sentence of up to 2 years imprisonment.

If acid is used deliberately and causes serious injury then the consequence can be even more severe. The maximum offence for inflicting grievous bodily harm with intent is one of life imprisonment.

How can we help?

The punishment for possessing sulphuric acid can be severe, the law is strict and can be complicated, for expert advice please contact us.


For more information click here for government guidance on licensing for home users of poisons and explosive precursors