The UK government plans to ban the sale of acid to minors and prevent people from carrying corrosive liquids in public, in response to a dramatic increase in acid attacks across the country.
Home Secretary Amber Rudd announced the decision Tuesday, describing the growing trend as “absolutely revolting.”
“You have all seen the pictures of victims that never fully recover, endless surgeries, lives ruined. So today, I’m also announcing a new offence to prevent the sale of acids to under 18s,” she said at a Conservative Party conference in Manchester.
She did not elaborate on how the government would impose the ban, but her comments were made in the wider context of a proposed strategy to reduce violent crime and the use of offensive weapons, including knives.
London in particular has seen a sharp rise in acid attacks, with 454 reported last year, up from 261 in 2015.
Many of the attacks are carried out with everyday cleaning items readily available at grocery and hardware stores.
Rudd said that she intended to also drastically limit the public sale of sulphuric acid as it could be used as a compound in homemade explosives, such as the one used in the Manchester bombing in May, which left 22 people dead.
Police say that acid attacks in London were once typically carried out by men against women close to them but are now predominantly used between young males, often in the context of urban gangs. Many cases against women, however, have been reported this year.
Several lawmakers have called for restrictions on the sale of acid-based products in recent months.
Rudd had previously called for a life sentence for perpetrators of acid attacks, arguing that many victims were in effect given a life sentence from their injuries.