Acid attacks in Britain’s capital are soaring to new heights, new data reveals.
A Freedom of Information request submitted by the Mirror shows that between 2011 and 2016, London had nearly 1,500 cases of the devastating crime, which burns the skin and leaves victims cowering from their injuries.
In the long term, the scale of the injuries are so scarring that victims can often suffer serious psychological damage as a result of the attacks.
Last year alone, there were 431 such acid attacks – a rise of 170 cases from the year prior.
The figures match a general UK trend, in which the crime rate for such attacks has risen by 50% since 2005.
Globally, roughly 80% of victims tend to women. Attacks are often carried out by vengeful men who have had their marriage proposals or sexual advances rebuffed.
However, acid attack charities in the UK estimate that British victims are predominantly men, at roughly 71% of victims.
Jaf Shah, the executive director of the support group Acid Survivors Trust International (ASTI), told the Guardian: “Looking at the data in general, there is a fairly large probability that a high percentage of the incidents are male-on-male attacks and most likely to be gang-related.
“The numbers appear to be very high and suggest an increase, which is very concerning.”
A former gang member described how acid attacks had become more acceptable and were not seen as a “big deal”.
“People don’t think of the consequences,” he said. “It’s easy to buy most of the ingredients legally…One of my cousins was done a few years ago. He was attacked on his shoulder and my uncle just dressed it for him at home.
“Acid is used as an extreme mark of dominance. It’s letting the individual know I haven’t killed you, but it’s almost worse than that, it’s a mark – on your face. It’s a sinister legacy.”
The difficulty and emotional trauma in reporting acid attacks can also mean that the figures are severely underinflated.
Newham, in east London, had the highest instances of acid attacks with 398 in the last six years.