Newham shop keepers have given strong support to a new scheme to tackle the sale of acid to young people – with over 80 pledging to challenge the age of customers.
The scheme, which is a partnership between Newham Council and the Metropolitan Police, encourages retailers to restrict the sale of acid and other noxious liquids to young people by challenging their age - writes newham.gov.uk.
The move follows recent high-profile crimes involving the use of acid and noxious liquids as a weapon across the capital, including the recent attack at the Stratford Centre where six people were injured and a 15 year old was arrested.
Newham shopkeepers are asked to sign up to an agreement to challenge any customer who looks under-25, and refuse to sell to anyone under the age of 21
The council is also asking retailers to refuse sale to anyone they suspect may be purchasing the chemicals for unlawful purposes.
So far of the 161 shop keepers visited – an impressive 87 signed up on the spot. A further 23 are awaiting signatures from the shop owners, while 51 confirmed that they no longer sell these products. No businesses have refused to join the scheme, and work is continuing to contact remaining businesses.
Participating businesses are already displaying the warning signs that age and identity of shoppers will be challenged.
The council’s trading standards team will follow up with retailers after they have registered to check if the scheme is working.
Under current legislation, there is no legal age or other restriction on the sale of acid, and the council has backed the efforts of East Ham MP Stephen Timms to force the Government to introduce new legislation.
Sir Robin Wales, Mayor of Newham, said: “We demand the Government urgently introduces licensing for the sale of all acid and other noxious liquids.
“We know that in Newham acid has increasingly become the weapon of choice for young criminals, as a result of tougher sentences for knife crime.
“However, unlike the sale of knives, there is no age restriction on the sale of these products to young people, and we want to see that change. We cannot wait for the law to change and we are determined to make it harder for all criminal perpetrators to get their hands on noxious liquids.
“I am pleased with the positive response of Newham’s business community to this scheme, and I congratulate them on their community minded and responsible attitude towards the sale of these highly dangerous products.”
Stephen Timms MP for East Ham, said: “This is an encouraging example of local multiagency working between the police, the council and local businesses to help stop corrosive substances falling into the possession of young people in our borough.
“We call on the Government to impose tougher licensing conditions and robust codes of practice on the sale of noxious substances. We support the British Retail Consortium and Association of Convenience Stores proposal that a valid licence and photo identification should be required to purchase sulphuric acid”.
Lyn Brown MP for West Ham, said: “Both victims and suspects tend to be young men, with some suspects significantly younger than 18. Whatever the root cause, the most practical and immediate thing we can do to tackle this problem is to restrict and monitor access to corrosives. Use of acid as a weapon of convenience is likely to drop, if that convenience is removed.
“Many corrosive chemicals are not included on the list of substances that require a licence. The result is that very dangerous chemicals have been left easily and cheaply available to potential attackers and abusers, such as solutions of sulphuric acid. We need, at the very least, to require individual licensing for a much wider range of dangerous corrosives. The Government should act now”
Newham acting borough commander Waheed Khan, said:
“I am pleased to support this voluntary initiative in collaboration with the local authority and our local businesses, to help tackle the use of noxious substances. It is great that so many business’ are willing to participate. This forms part of our joint strategy to help reduce the availability of noxious substances, which may be used as part of criminality.”
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