Two teenagers have been arrested in connection with a spate of acid attacks that took place in east London last night [Thursday].
Five attacks were carried out in under 90 minutes across Hackney, Stoke Newington and Islington, with one 24-year-old victim suffering “life-changing injuries”, heightening calls for the carrying of acid to be criminalised.
A 16-year-old boy was arrested in the early hours of Friday morning on suspicion of grevious bodily harm and robbery, with a 15-year-old boy later arrested in Stoke Newington on suspicion of the same charges.
All of those targeted were riding mopeds at the time they were attacked, with two victims identified as food delivery drivers.
But police say that reports that all five of the victims were food delivery drivers are untrue.
Chief Inspector Ben Clark, from Hackney Borough, said: “I’m aware of rumours circulating that the victims were all food delivery riders set up in advance of the attacks.
“This is not the case. All victims were riding mopeds at the time of the attacks, but were from a variety of backgrounds.”
However, officers believe the incidents could have been linked, with two victims having had their mopeds stolen.
Clark continued: “Of late we have seen more attacks using corrosive substances in London. I would urge businesses and parents to challenge those who they think may be trying to obtain or carry these substances as this could help prevent serious offences and life changing injuries being caused.”
Anyone who witnessed one of the attacks should contact police, he added.
According to police, the attackers pulled up to the separate men and doused them the corrosive liquid between 10.25pm and 11.37pm.
Video from the scene shared on social media showed victims being doused with water following the attacks.
At the start of the spree, a 32-year-old moped driver was approached by the pair as he drove on the Hackney Road junction with Queensbridge Road.
The two male suspects had tossed the noxious substance into his face before one of them jumped on to his vehicle and drove away.
Police said the man had gone to an east London hospital. His injuries are not being treated as life-threatening or life-changing.
Around 20 minutes later at 10.49pm, a 44-year-old man had a corrosive substance thrown in his face by two males on a moped in Upper Street junction with Highbury Corner in Islington.
He was taken to a north London hospital and police said they were awaiting an for an update on his injuries.
Another victim, a 52-year-old man, was attacked by two men on a moped on Shoreditch High Street, having liquid thrown in his face at around 11.05pm.
An update on his condition awaits, police said.
Within 15 minutes the attackers appear to have struck again, launching the corrosive substance at a 24-year-old man on Cazenove Road, causing “life-changing” injuries.
The final assault of the night was reported to police at 11.37pm, when another man, aged 33, was confronted as he sat on his moped in traffic on Chatsworth Road.
After again spraying the liquid in a victim’s face, the moped was stolen and both attackers fled.
Speaking this morning, Labour MP Stephen Timms said that the carrying of acid should be criminalised, adding that there was “a case” for reviewing stop and search guidelines following the recent rise in attacks.
Timms was already due to lead a parliamentary debate following the recent rise of acid attacks, in the House of Commons on Monday 17 July.
The politician said he will be calling for three things; firstly for carrying acid to be criminalised, secondly for the purchase of sulphuric acid to require a licence and thirdly for the sentencing guidelines for acid attacks to be reviewed.
He told BBC Radio Four’s Today programme said: “Carrying acid in itself should be an offence in the same way that carrying a knife was made an offence a few years ago. I think that has been a pretty effective change and the same change should be made for acid.
“Simply walking round the street with a bottle of sulphuric acid - that should be an offence.”
While sulphuric acid is covered by a lower category in regulations for explosives, the MP wants it to be raised so people would need a licence to buy it. Legitimate uses for the strong corrosive include DIY and drain clearing.
He also called for stop and search guidelines to be reviewed: “I think it is right to look at the circumstances in which it’s appropriate for people to be searched and there has been a debate on this in recent months.
“Of course care is required with how one would make such a change but I think there is a case for having another look at that.”
In April figures revealed the number of acid attacks had doubled in the past five years amid fears corrosive substances are becoming “a weapon of choice”.