Amber Rudd has proposed to ban the sale of acid to under 18s and outlaw its possession in public after a string of “absolutely revolting” attacks.
The Home Secretary also told the Tory Party Conference in Manchester that the sale of sulphuric acid would be “drastically” limited because it can be used in homemade explosives.
It follows a spate of attacks in which people have had the substance thrown suddenly in their face. In one attack in July, five men were targeted by two moped-riders in north and east London in the space of 90 minutes.
Rudd told the conference on Tuesday: “I am announcing a new offence to prevent the sale of acids to under 18s.
“Furthermore, given its use in the production of so-called ‘mother of Satan’ homemade explosives, I also announce my intention to drastically limit the public sale of sulphuric acid.
“This is how we will help make our communities safer as crime changes.”
One acid attack victim, UberEATS driver Jabed Hussain, said having acid thrown over his helmet as he drove on a delivery left him frightened to be out in London.
“I’m really scared. I’m not safe. I live in one of the most multicultural cities in the world but I don’t feel safe. I just want to know why,” he said.
After having the substance thrown in his face, he ran away and screamed for help as he felt a huge pain in the left hand side of his face, but others were too frightened to do anything.
The acid changes were part of a consultation on offensive weapons, which will propose banning the sale of knives to under-18s and outlawing the possession of knives like flick knives.
Rudd also announced a £600,000 investment in new software that will trawl the web for indecent images of children and remove them.
The new software follows “an exponential surge in the volume of child sexual abuse referrals,” she said.
The Tory minister told delegates: “Our investment will enable internet companies to pro-actively search for, and destroy, illegal images in their systems.
“We want them to start using it as soon as they can.
“Our question to them will be ‘if not, why not’. And I will demand very clear answers.”