Acid Attack Survivor Katie Piper Pleads For Tougher Sentencing Amid Spate Of Crimes

Acid Attack Survivor Katie Piper Pleads For Tougher Sentencing Amid Spate Of Crimes

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Acid attack survivor Katie Piper has penned an open letter pleading for tougher sentencing and penalties for those carrying and using corrosive substances as weapons.

It comes as two teenagers were arrested on Friday on suspicion of grievous bodily harm and robbery following five linked acid attacks in north and east London.

Piper’s letter was also published ahead of a parliamentary debate on the recent rise of such attacks due to be held in the House of Commons on Monday 17 July.

In 2008 Piper was 24 when she was maimed after a man she had been dating arranged for an accomplice to throw sulphuric acid in her face. It left her partially blinded, with severe and permanent scarring to her face, chest, neck, arm and hands.

She also swallowed some of the acid in the attack, leaving her requiring ongoing surgery to prevent scar tissue from closing her throat completely.

Piper wrote: “I couldn’t recognise myself when I woke up from a coma and I wanted to commit suicide.”

Revealing she has undergone 250 operations since the attack, and will continue to have further procedures for the rest of her days, she said: “For acid attack survivors, the aftermath is a life sentence.”

Five men were hurt, one of whom was left with “life-changing” injuries following the acid attacks in London on Thursday night, which occurred within 90 minutes of each other.

Piper, who set up a charity to help adults with burns, added: “Through my charity’s support and rehabilitation work I see that it is not only the individuals, but also their families and friends, who are affected. Lives can be destroyed in moments.

“Survivors of such attacks often have to live with the immediate fear that their attackers may still be at large, and in the longer term—even if the attackers are caught and sentenced—may be released to potentially live alongside them after serving a minimum term. I meet many inspiring individuals who have worked hard to rebuild their lives after an attack; however, it can be hard to stay motivated when the justice system does not always reflect the severity of these crimes.”

Speaking on Friday morning, Labour MP Timms, who will lead the parliamentary debate on Monday, said 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. 

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.”

Piper is in agreement, writing: “At present, it is all too easy for someone to buy a corrosive substance and throw it, sometimes from a distance, at another person. It is vital that we do everything we can to halt these types of attack.

“The current legislation does not always recognise the severity of the offence and, therefore, the sentencing does not reflect the severity of the crime in some cases. Tougher sentencing would surely act as a deterrent to further attacks. The issue of penalties for carrying corrosive substances needs to be addressed and restrictions on the sale of corrosive substances need to be looked at seriously and methodically through a scientific and well-resourced approach that leads to swift action.

“This situation cannot be allowed to continue or escalate and this is my plea to prevent more lives being destroyed.”

Last month Resham Khan was attacked with acid on her 21st birthday. The aspiring model was in a car in east London with her cousin Jameel Mukhtar, 37, who was also injured.

John Tomlin appeared in court on Tuesday charged with two counts of grievous bodily harm with intent.

The 24-year-old was remanded in custody and will appear at Snaresbrook Crown Court on 8 August.

Meanwhile Khan has launched a campaign from her hospital bed urging stricter regulations regarding the sale of corrosive substances and considerations of stricter punishment for those who use acid as a weapon.

Describing her pain as “unbearable”, she wrote: “I cannot sit back whilst others remain indoors in fear of this happening to them. This problem needs to be eliminated. I refuse to allow the country I grew up in to simply get used to corrosive substance attacks. The fear is real. The crime is real.”

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