Acid attacks — mostly on girls and women — cost £60m a year in UK
London — Acid attacks cost £60m a year, according to experts who say the number of attacks — which often target girls and women — has more than trebled since 2014.
The analysis, released on Monday, is the first attempt to evaluate the economic effect of acid attacks in the UK, which is looking at new measures to tackle the devastating crime.
Almost 950 attacks were reported in 2017, according to the charity Acid Survivors’ Trust International (Asti).
"There is an obvious moral case for intervention, but these figures show that the costs associated with acid attacks are astronomical," Asti executive director Jaf Shah told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
Asti and economics consultancy firm Frontier Economics estimated each attack cost £63,000 and predicted the total cost between 2015 and 2020 would be about £345m.
They looked at costs to the health service, including medical and psychosocial support, costs to the police, judicial and penal systems and the cost to victims of lost earnings and reduced productivity.
Acid attacks cause skin and tissue to melt, leaving victims facing permanent disfigurement, medical complications, psychological trauma and social and economic ostracisation.
Survivors often require long-term support.
Shah, who will address parliamentarians next week, said he hoped similar studies could be done in other countries to persuade governments to invest more in tackling the crime.
"As an organisation, we are trying to make a clear case for intervention based on the damage done to survivors, but we know governments quite often determine policies [based] on the impact on the economy," Shah said.
Worldwide, three-quarters of acid attacks are directed at girls and women, often by spurned suitors and jealous partners.
The picture is different in the UK, where there has been a rise in acid attacks in London linked to robberies and gang violence. Outside the capital, however, Shah said just more than half of victims were women.
The government recently introduced a new Offensive Weapons Bill, which would ban the sale of corrosives to under-18s and make it a crime to possess a corrosive substance in a public place without good reason.
Acid attack survivor Katie Gee, who was left badly scarred after a man hurled corrosive fluid over her in Zanzibar in 2013, welcomed the economic analysis.
"We often recognise the physical, psychological and emotional toll that an acid attack has on a survivor, their family and friends, yet the economic burden … on society and the government as a result is often overlooked," she said.
Thomson Reuters Foundation