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Suffolk police chief calls for on-street liquid tests in bid to reduce number of acid attacks

PUBLISHED: 18:11 07 December 2017 | UPDATED: 18:11 07 December 2017

Rachel Kearton, who has been appointed as Suffolk Constabulary's new assistant chief constable. Picture: SUFFOLK CONSTABULARY

Rachel Kearton, who has been appointed as Suffolk Constabulary's new assistant chief constable. Picture: SUFFOLK CONSTABULARY

Archant

A senior Suffolk police officer has called for on-street testing of liquids to tackle acid attacks.

Suffolk Assistant Chief Constable Rachel Kearton wants new legislation to criminalise the carrying of corrosive substances, similar to laws for carrying knives.

Under the proposed legislation, suspects would have to prove they were carrying liquids, ranging from sulphuric acid to household bleach, for legitimate reasons.

Other measures could include working with retailers and manufacturers to restrict sales and make it more difficult to transfer acids to small portable drinks bottles often used in attacks.

But Ms Kearton, the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) lead on corrosive attacks, highlighted the difficulties of enforcing any new and existing laws.

She said there were “legal and procedural difficulties” around on-street tests, while the country’s only pilot scheme failed.

The Metropolitan Police has stopped its litmus-style on-street test because of difficulties around accuracy.

“I do see the need for on-street testing,” Ms Kearton added. “It might not be litmus paper, but surely we can have a way. If we can test people for drug driving and drink driving, we can get some equipment and technology nowadays to test it.”

She said the second challenge would be to prove the acid being carried was for use in an attack, arguing the onus should be on the suspect to satisfy the courts it was for legitimate use.

The UK has one of the highest rates of recorded acid attacks per capita in the world, with more than 400 acid or corrosive substance attacks carried out in the six months up to April 2017.

While official figures for the rest of year are not yet available, Ms Kearton said: “It appears in 2017 we will again exceed previous records for attacks.

“They are rare attacks but they are horrendous. They have life-long impact and they are done with intent to maim and disfigure.”

This year has seen a number of high-profile cases, including the nightclub attack carried out by the ex-boyfriend of reality TV star Ferne McCann.

Arthur Collins is facing jail this month after more than a dozen people were injured when he threw acid across the packed dance floor.

A 57-hour weather warning for snow in Suffolk and Norfolk has said that some rural communities could be cut off.

Firefighters tacked two separate blazes in Suffolk on Saturday evening.

A 62-year-old woman reported missing to police who was believed to be in the Norfolk or Suffolk area has returned home, police have said.

The British actress Emma Chambers – known for her roles in The Vicar of Dibley and Notting Hill – has died aged 53.

Suffolk entrepreneurs are being reminded of a major networking event at which Dragons Den star Levi Roots will be offering delegates advice on how to maximise their opportunities.

Volunteers have been out for much of the weekend in the search for missing Suffolk man Paul Moore – nearly three weeks after he was reported missing.

One of East Anglia’s air ambulances caused a stir on Saturday lunchtime after it was called to land near West Suffolk College near the heart of Bury St Edmunds.

Traffic using the junction between the A14 and Nacton Road near Ransomes Europark faced serious delays on Saturday lunchtime after a crash between two vans.

A Suffolk teacher helping deprived children at an Indian “slum school” is embarking on the first recorded hike along the country’s second longest river.

Music and entertainment retailer HMV has returned to Ipswich town centre after five weeks away.

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