A teenager was sentenced to 17 years imprisonment, for what is being perceived as the first conviction for an acid attack causing death in the UK.
A 19 year old man, Mr. Webster, admitted to the manslaughter of Ms. Rand. Ms Rand was hit in the face and body with a strong industrial-strength sulphuric acid after being caught in the crossfire between Mr. Webster and the intended victim.
Ms. Rand was sitting on a bench after visiting her daughter’s grave, when Mr. Webster threatened to attack another man with acid.
The other man knocked the bottle from Mr. Webster’s hold by kicking it, sending a spray of the highly corrosive acid over Ms Rand who began to scream out in pain and ran to a nearby fast food restaurant to splash water over her face, to attempt to remove the acid.
Ms. Rand was taken to Stoke Mandeville hospital to treat the burns to her face, arms, upper body and lower legs. She died 11 days later of multiple organ failure after contracting septicaemia due to the burns.
CCTV footage obtained after the incident showed Webster wearing a balaclava, retrieving the acid bottle and cycling away. He discarded it before taking the train back to his home in West London.
Webster was charged with murder, but during his trial at Reading Crown Court, he admitted to manslaughter, which was accepted by the prosecution. He was also convicted of additional offences including possessing ammonia and a samurai sword.
In June 2017, Webster also attempted to seize a bicycle from another man. Webster reached into his satchel to grab a bottle containing a corrosive, told the man it contained acid, and attempted to throw it at him. In a fright, the man knocked the acid away. The spray reached Webster, whose face began to burn immediately.
Adrian Foster from of the Crown Prosecution Service said Rand was not the intended victim.
“The prosecution was brought on the basis that by producing an open bottle of acid and raising it to the face of another man, Xeneral Webster intended to cause that individual really serious harm.
“The man fighting with Webster acted reasonably, in the circumstances, by deflecting the bottle away. Webster was responsible for the death of Joanne and had he not planned to hurt the intended victim, Joanne would still be alive today.”
The court was told that Webster blamed this behaviour on taking the substance spice, which he initially thought was cannabis.
Rand’s daughter, Katie Pitwell, called for tougher sentences for acid attackers, stating “I think the buying of acid needs to be restricted, but also, if someone is carrying it, there should be tougher sentences,”
Webster’s defence counsel, Brendan Kelly, said Webster had a troubled background and had been abused.
The Judge, Angela Morris, identified there was “more than a mere hint of gang association or culture” in the crime.
“You and your actions bear the responsibility for her [Rand’s] tragic demise,” she said.
The senior investigating officer, DCI Nick Glister of Thames Valley police, said:
“Webster showed a total disregard for the innocent members of the public who were present that day, and his actions took a much-loved mum, sister and partner away from her many family and friends.
“Acid attacks are horrific. Their consequences devastate lives. I hope this case is a pertinent reminder to anyone considering carrying this dangerous substance that doing so can have very serious consequences.”
The government has restrict the sale of corrosive substances by attempting to introduced a statutory instrument to makes sulphuric acid above a concentration level of 15% a regulated substance under the 1972 Poisons Act. A licence is now needed to import, acquire, possess or use sulphuric acid above a concentration of 15%.
Contact Duncan Lewis Crime department on 0333 772 0409 for expert legal advice. For our 24 hour service call Duncan Lewis’ emergency assistance on 0333 772 0607.