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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

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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.”

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