Government ignored expert advice and relaxed laws on sale of acids used in recent attacks

The Government ignored expert advice and made changes in 2015 that made it easier to buy dangerous acids that have been used in a spate of attacks in recent weeks, The Independent can reveal.

Changes made in the Deregulation Act 2015 scrapped an obligation on sellers of dangerous substances, including acids, to be registered with their local council. The move was opposed by medical experts, who warned that it could make it easier for criminals to get their hands on highly toxic substances, and by the Government’s own advisory board on the regulation of hazardous chemicals.

Ministers boasted at the time about “cutting red tape” but are now under mounting pressure from MPs and campaigners to re-tighten laws to make it harder for people to get their hands on highly concentrated acids. It comes after dozens of people were injured in a spate of acid attacks, with London being particularly affected by the incidents.

Under previous legislation, namely the 1972 Poisons Act, any business selling dangerous substances was required to register annually with their local council, ensuring there was a record of companies selling hazardous chemicals. Those selling the most lethal chemicals also needed a licence from the Home Office.

However, the 2015 changes scrapped this requirement and now mean there is no longer any registration or licence needed to sell many dangerous chemicals. Only the most potent toxins, including those used to make explosives, are deemed “regulated substances” and require a licence to sell. Sulphuric acid and hydrochloric acid are included on a separate list of “reportable substances” that do not require a licence.

Instead of having to register with their local council, sellers of “reportable substances” are merely required to tell authorities about anyone buying a substance “if the supplier has reasonable grounds for believing the transaction to be suspicious”, such as if there is a suspicion the chemical is…

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