Schoolgirl, 14, sold bleach at shops in Newham dubbed 'UK's acid attack capital'

A 14-year-old schoolgirl was able to buy bleach from London shops, despite retailers agreeing to prevent sales of corrosive substances to children amid a spate of acid attacks, an investigation has revealed.

BBC’s 5 Live Investigates was present during an undercover sting led by Newham Council and the Metropolitan Police this week, in which the teenage girl was able to buy bottles of household cleaning bleach from three out of five high street retailers in Newham.

The London borough had been dubbed the “acid attack capital of Britain” in reports after Met Police figures showed it had the highest rates of attacks in the UK.

The Government is currently reviewing the regulation of sales of corrosive substances.

Retailers are currently being encouraged to sign up to voluntarily self-regulate sales of corrosive substances to minors.

In Newham, 182 retailers reportedly signed up to a voluntary scheme preventing such sales shoppers aged under 21.

The results of the sting caused alarm, with Newham Council demanding the Government urgently bring forward legislation to introduce a total ban on the sale of corrosive liquids to children, 5 Live reports.

The Home Office told the programme, which aired the report on Sunday, that it was considering responses to its consultation on a proposal to ban sales of corrosive products to under-18s, and creating a new possession offence.

The programme also obtained new figures from 25 of 46 police forces asked for their data; showing acid attacks were three times higher in 2017 than in 2013 – with 646 attacks recorded in England and Wales last year.

The majority of the attacks were recorded in London, with 464 incidents in 2017, followed by Greater Manchester, with 44.

Met Police told 5 Live there was evidence of a reduction in the number of attacks during the second half of 2017, with last December recording as having the lowest monthly number since November 2015.

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