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Report No. 226

United Kingdom1

1. The Facts in this chapter have been taken from The Baseline Survey with International comparative Analysis of the Legal Aspects of Acid Violence in Uganda.

Although acid violence is not common in the UK, the courts have punished the perpetrators harshly, when there have been such attacks. Attacks are charged under Section 29 of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861 (OAPA). This section of the Act specifically refers to "casting or applying any corrosive fluid with intent to burn maim disfigure or disable any person." If not charged under this provision, they are dealt with as murder or attempted murder.

Offences against the Person Act 1861

20. Inflicting bodily injury, with or without weapon. Whosoever shall unlawfully and maliciously wound or inflict any grievous bodily harm upon any other person, either with or without any weapon or instrument, shall be guilty of a misdemean or, and being convicted thereof shall be liable [...]34 to be kept in penal servitude [...]35

29. Causing gunpowder to explode, or sending to any person an explosive substance, or throwing corrosive fluid on a person, with intent to do grievous bodily harm. Whosoever shall unlawfully and maliciously cause any gunpowder or other explosive substance to explode, or send or deliver to or cause to be taken or received by any person any explosive substance or any other dangerous or noxious thing, or put or lay at any place, or cast or throw at or upon or otherwise apply to any person, any corrosive fluid or any destructive or explosive substance, with intent in any of the cases aforesaid to burn, maim, disfigure, or disable any person, or to do some grievous bodily harm to any person, shall, whether any bodily injury be effected or not, be guilty of felony, and being convicted thereof shall be liable, at the discretion of the court, to be kept in penal servitude for life or to be imprisoned

The sentencing guidelines under Section 29 of OAPA 1861, state that there should always be a custodial sentence for this offence and the maximum sentence is life imprisonment. Lengthy sentences have mostly been given by the courts in tune with the premeditated nature of the crime. Sentences of 5- 6 years imprisonment have been upheld in cases where there was no or minimal injury to the victim.

For cases of severe disfigurement, sentences of 14 - 16 years imprisonment are awarded. The case of Radford upheld in 1986 where the victim substantially lost vision in one eye and the perpetrator was given only a 5 year sentence, now seems to be out of line with the lengthier sentences imposed in the 1990's and 2000's.

Below are some cases taken from judgments of the UK courts are as under:

  • Radford (1986) 8CR App R (S) 60: 5 years imprisonment was upheld when a corrosive substance was squirted into the victim's face causing substantial loss of vision in one eye. The appellant had pleaded guilty at the trial and claimed that he had not intended to blind the victim only to disable. However the Appeal judge held that because the attack was premeditated and deliberate, the conviction and sentence would be upheld.
  • Ismail (1992) 13 CR App R (S) 395: 14 years imprisonment was upheld for throwing nitric acid into the face of an estranged partner, causing gross disfigurement and blindness.
  • In the case Boumphrey (1994) 15 Cr.App.R.(S.) 733, a sentence of 13 years imprisonment was upheld for the total blinding of an innocent young man. There was a plea of guilty and the appellant was a 47-yearold man with a serious heart condition. And although there were indications of previous violence, he had no previous convictions for violence. These facts reduced the length of the sentence slightly.
  • Carrington (1999) 2CR App R (S) 206: 6 years imprisonment was upheld when sulphuric acid was thrown into the face of the offender's former girlfriend. No long term damage was sustained due to prompt first aid but because the attack was premeditated and no remorse was shown, the sentence was upheld. The judge stated that the fact that the victim did not sustain any serious permanent injury was not something that could go to the credit of the appellant. It was due solely to assistance given by others.
  • In the case of Newton [1999] 1 Cr.App.R.(S.) 438 a planned acid attack occurred on an estranged wife by her husband at her place of work, leaving her with 10 per cent burns to her body and with the aggravating feature that he robbed her till at the same time. A 15- year sentence was reduced by the Court of Appeal to 12 years. However, it is important to note that in that case there was no permanent scarring and no element of conspiracy, which serve to increase the length of a sentence.
  • In the case of Jones [1999] 1 Cr.App.R.(S.) 473 a man was held in a car for 45 minutes and acid poured over him following a dispute between him and the attacker over money, which was said to be owed as the proceeds of a fraudulent enterprise on their mutual behalves. Extensive burns to the face and the possible loss of one eye was incurred. Sixteen years was upheld as a proper sentence on the tariff basis for that offence, although a four-year sentence then being served was ordered to run concurrently on the basis of the totality principle.
  • In Krishan Raja Rai & Earl Robinson (2000) 2 CR App R (S) 120: 15 years imprisonment was upheld for both offenders - one who had the intent and the other who actually threw the acid. Rai had issued threats to his former girlfriend that "you think you're so pretty, you won't be for long" and to the girlfriend's father he had said "If I don't get her I'll spoil her face or I will kill her." Robinson, who was unknown to the girlfriend ran up one evening on the street and poured concentrated nitric acid over her head from a lucozade bottle. As a result of the attack the girlfriend lost her right ear, significant scarring to her face, neck, scalp and chest. She required several surgical procedures. She also needed regular counselling from a clinical psychologist.

The judge in the first instance held that the penalty for an offence of this nature must be longer than a normal sentence. Also he felt that the public needed to be protected from such offenders.

The English courts have been equally severe against those behind an attack who have hired someone else to commit the crime. In the unreported case of Humphries (1996), Mr Peter Humphries, hired a stranger to throw acid on his former wife. Miss Hammett was babysitting for the former wife and was injured in a case of mistaken identity as the attacker did not know that she was not the intended victim. Although the attacker was never caught, Humphries received a 12 year sentence. The table below shows the kind of sentences that have been awarded in cases of acid attack in different countries where such data was available till.



The Inclusion of Acid Attacks as Specific Offences in the Indian Penal Code and a law for Compensation for Victims of Crime Back




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