Leicester criminologists working with Government to explore motivations behind acid attacks

Researchers from our Department of Criminology have launched a major research project, commissioned by the Home Office, into the motivations of offenders who carry and use acid in violent attacks.

The project, which has been highlighted by national media including the BBC, is part of a national effort to tackle acid attacks, with some of the country’s largest retailers and independent business leaders in the UK pledging not to sell the most harmful corrosive substances to under 18s, as part of a series of voluntary commitments proposed by the Government.

Waitrose, B&Q, Morrisons, Wickes, Co-op, Screwfix and Tesco are among the major brands to sign the voluntary commitments on the responsible sale of corrosive substances. The British Independent Retailers Association will this month be encouraging all its members to sign up.

Professor Teela Sanders, from our Department of Criminology, said: “This project taps into the expert skills of researchers at the University of Leicester with case file analysis and interviews with serious violent offenders in prisons. This most needed research on this phenomenon will produce important recommendations for government to take forward.”

Dr Matt Hopkins, from our Department of Criminology, said: “This is an important project that will explore the motivations for what is a very worrying and serious crime. The fieldwork will not only allow us to understand how/ why attacks are carried out but also help develop preventative strategies.”

The voluntary commitments will see retailers:

  • Agree not to sell products to under 18s that contain potentially harmful levels of acid or corrosive substances - including applying Challenge 21/25 policies when asking for age identification, staff supported by till alerts, supervision and inclusion of these products in age restricted sales training.
  •  Agree that equivalent age restriction measures are applied to products sold online.
  • Agree to comply with the Poisons Act and promote awareness to staff and what this means for the sale of products which contain levels of acid and other corrosive substances which are either regulated or reportable under the Act.

The steps announced today form part of the Acid Attack Action Plan announced by the Home Secretary in July 2017.

The Home Office also recently concluded its consultation on proposals to ban the sale of products containing the most harmful corrosive substances to under 18s, make it an offence to possess a corrosive substance in a public place without good reason and introduce minimum custodial sentences for those repeatedly caught carrying acid without good reason.