Acid attacks: Hundreds of delivery riders block roads outside Parliament demanding protection

Acid attack victim Jabed Hussain among couriers joining demonstration

Lizzie Dearden
Tuesday 18 July 2017 17:53 BST
Delivery riders join acid attack protest in Parliament Square

Hundreds of food delivery riders have blocked roads outside the Houses of Parliament in a protest demanding protection after a spate of acid attacks in London.

At least 200 scooters and motorbikes arrived in Parliament Square honking their horns and carrying signs saying “Who will give us security at work?” and “Delivery drivers are at risk”.

Jabed Hussain, the victim of the first of five acid attacks that hit the capital in just 90 minutes on Thursday, was among the demonstrators carrying a banner reading: “Stop acid attacks, bike theft and motorcycle crime.”

“Today I am a victim and tomorrow you might be a victim of acid attack,” he wrote on Facebook ahead of the event.

“Together we can beat acid gangs including knife attacks –stand up against it before it goes viral.”

Mr Hussain, a 32-year-old UberEats delivery driver, was riding through Haggerston when two men on a moped pulled up to his left and threw the liquid on him.

Acid attack victim Jabed Hussain (centre) during a demonstration in Parliament Square on 18 July (PA)

The attackers stole his moped after he started to feel the burning, dismounted and took off his helmet.

“I was just begging for water because by that time it was burning on my face,” he said.

“Then I started screaming, I feel like dry and burning, I feel like somebody put fire on my face.”

Mr Hussain said he had been left too scared to go back to work, with his wife and family pleading with him to leave his job.

He was discharged from hospital with minor injuries but Deliveroo rider Jabed Duzzahuru is thought to have been permanently scarred after he was targeted on his way home from work later that night.

They were among five moped riders targeted with acid on Thursday, which followed a separate attack on two cousins in Beckton and another on a pregnant woman and her partner in Bow.

Protesters called for more action to protect them in the capital, amid calls from MPs for acid to be licenced and tougher sentences to discourage perpetrators.

Delivery riders during a demonstration in Parliament Square on 18 July (PA)

They blocked traffic in Westminster on Tuesday afternoon, before marching on foot to demand stronger penalties for those caught using corrosive liquids as a weapon.

One UberEats driver, who gave his name only as Worneh, said: “It's come to a point where riders, we don't feel safe.

"Every time a bike pulls up behind us, we're always worried that it's our time for someone to throw acid in our face, or to stab us.

"It's not only riders, this is for the public in general as well. No one feels safe anymore.”

Worneh called for more police motorcyclists on the road to be able to trace suspects and for companies to take action, adding: “There are certain areas we do not dare go in to after 7pm.”

Egson Peraraira, a 28-year-old rider who works for Deliveroo and Uber Eats, claimed his friend had been a victim of an attack and the police "did nothing".

"We pay expensive insurance and tax...we work hard every day and we are not being protected," he told the BBC

Delivery riders during a demonstration in Parliament Square on 18 July (PA)

Lyla, a member of protest organisers the Motorcycle Crime Prevention Community, said the biggest problem for drivers was not the sale of acid, but the fact that attackers are also on mopeds.

”These people wouldn't have acid if they were trying to run on foot, on bicycles or in cars,“ she added, saying that perpetrators can remove their helmets and be confident that police will not chase them because regulations over the danger of fatal crashes.

Takeaway firms have been contacting their drivers in recent days with proposals to allay fears and improve safety.

An email sent to staff by Deliveroo chief executive Will Shu announced the launch of new weekly rider safety surgeries and a contact email and number for riders to report concerns, writing: “An attack on one of us is an attack on all of us.”

His email said the company would allow riders to refuse to deliver to areas where they feel unsafe, assuring them it would not affect employment prospects.

UberEats sent a note to all couriers on Monday and emphasised that it does not set zones or shifts for riders .

“Our team has been in touch and offered support to the UberEats courier who was sadly one of the victims of these attacks,” the email said, adding that counselling support was available and group meetings on safety concerns would be held.

Ibrahim Dogus, chairman of the British Takeaway Campaign, which represents thousands of restaurants, said everyone should be able to do their work “without fear of intimidation or violence”.

“Our sympathies are those riders, and their families, who were victims of acid attacks,” he added. “We call upon the Metropolitan Police to do everything in its powers to prevent further attacks, including restricting the sales of strong acid, and bring those carrying out these attacks to justice.”

A 16-year-old boy has appeared in court charged over Thursday's acid attacks, denying 13 offences including robbery and GBH with intent.

Two other court cases are underway relating to the attacks on Resham Khan and Jameel Muhktar, and the assault on a pregnant woman in Bow, while there have been no arrests following another suspected acid attack on Friday in Dagenham.

MPs called for the Government to take urgent action including tougher sentences, the introduction of specific acid-related offences and a crackdown on sales in Parliament on Monday.

Labour former minister Stephen Timms, who led a Commons debate on the issue, said that acid is becoming a ”preferred weapon for gangs carrying out robberies“.

"It's easy to obtain, it's cheap, it's hard to trace back to the perpetrator, and while it's relatively hard to obtain a gun, knives are more tightly restricted, criminals seem to have concluded that acid is a less risky weapon for them to commit violent crimes,” he added.

Amber Rudd, the Home Secretary, has indicated that acid attack convictions could soon carry life sentences as part of a crackdown on corrosive substances unveiled by the Government, which includes a review of existing powers.

National Police Chiefs’ Council statistics suggest that more than 400 acid or corrosive substance attacks were carried out in the six months up to April 2017, based on information from 39 forces in England and Wales reporting the use of bleach, ammonia and acid.

Additional reporting by PA

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