Britain's Home Secretary makes plea to store owners after spate of acid attacks

Attacks with corrosive substances in Britain's capital have more than doubled in three years.

Britain's Home Secretary Amber Rudd is seen ahead of a speech by Spanish King Felipe VI at the Palace of Westminster in London on July 12, 2017. 

Spanish King Felipe VI and Queen Letizia begin a state visit to Britain on Wednesday, as the two countries attempt to strengthen ties despite tensions over Britain's plans to leave the European Union. / AFP PHOTO / POOL / HANNAH MCKAY

Britain's Home Secretary Amber Rudd has appealed to store owners to be vigilant following a dramatic rise in the number of acid attacks across London.

The city has witnessed a spike in the number of attacks and just last week five moped drivers were targeted in a 90 minute period, leaving a man blind in one eye.

Ms Rudd made the plea after an investigation by the London Evening Standard found that powerful sulphuric acid was easy to buy in many shops across the capital.

She told the newspaper that it was important "not to understate how vital retailers will be in the fight against this scourge".

She continued: "The availability of these products- many of them everyday household items- means that it will be tremendously difficult to ensure these harmful substances never get into the wrong hands.

"That is why I urge store owners and sales assistants, those working on the front line of this particular battle to be vigilant and to report any concerns to the police."

More than half of the UK's acid attacks take place in London, which saw 458 attacks last year alone. This is in comparison to less than 200 in 2014.

Following the moped attacks last week, on Monday MPs debated measures to impose tougher sentences on those who carry out the offences.

The Metropolitan Police in London yesterday said they were investigating links between criminal gangs and the rise in acid attacks.

“We are seeing some links - although it has to be treated with caution because it's a small data set - a growing feature between named suspects in acid attacks who also feature in our gang matrix,” Deputy Commissioner Craig Mackey said.

Describing east London as a "hotspot" for attacks, he added that the majority of victims were aged between 15 and 29 and almost a third were Asian.