London acid attacks: Teenager jailed for 10 and a half years over spate of assaults on moped riders

One victim left with life-changing injuries while others bear long-term physical and mental scars

Judith Vonberg
Monday 12 March 2018 12:49 GMT
London acid attacks: Teenager jailed for 10 and a half years over spate of assaults on moped riders

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Louise Thomas

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A 17-year-old boy has been jailed for 10 and a half years for carrying out a spate of “despicable” acid attacks one evening last summer.

Derryck John, from Croydon, south London, threw corrosive liquid through the visors of six moped riders in less than 90 minutes, trying to blind them and steal their scooters.

The attacks took place on 13 July in the north and east of the capital. John first escaped with two stolen mopeds before returning to attempt more thefts.

Judge Noel Lucas QC described John's crimes as "despicable and cowardly".

John, who appeared at Wood Green Crown Court via video link, originally denied the charges and had been due to stand trial, but changed his plea to guilty on the first day of the hearing.

"One of the victims has lost 30 percent of his eyesight which he will never recover," said Ramesh Patel, of the Crown Prosecution Service. "Others described searing pain and burning at the time and have been forced to leave their jobs as a result of their injuries."

"Had they not been wearing helmets, all of the victims' injuries could have been much more serious," Patel added in a statement.

John was arrested at 3am the morning after the attacks after being caught on CCTV at a petrol station stepping off a stolen scooter and removing his helmet.

He pleaded guilty to six counts of throwing a corrosive liquid with intent to “disable, burn, maim, disfigure or cause grievous bodily harm," two counts of robbery and four counts of attempted robbery.

Earlier reporting restrictions had banned identification of the defendant due to his age.

But judge Lucas told the court last month that there was an "overwhelming, huge public interest" in identifying the teenager after he pleaded guilty to 12 counts.

An indictment lists another unidentified person, who is believed to have been driving the moped on which John was a passenger, as also involved in the attacks.

In a note read to the court by judge Lucas, John said the guilty pleas were entered “on the basis that the acid was thrown to incapacitate the victims” and that “the other male involved was much older than me."

“I really didn’t appreciate the damage that would be done,” the boy added.

“I’m terrified of the sentence that I will receive and I’m very sorry for what I did and realise I will receive a significant sentence of imprisonment.”

The substance used is thought to have had a pH of one or two – making it the strongest acid available – the court heard.

John’s guilty plea came a day after the Government announced major retailers had signed a voluntary commitment to stop selling corrosive products to under-18s in shops or online.

Figures collated by the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) found more than 400 acid or corrosive substance attacks were carried out in England and Wales in the six months up to April 2017.

Assistant Chief Constable Rachel Kearton, its lead on corrosive attacks, revealed last month that the UK now has one of the highest rates of acid attacks per capita in the world – and the number is rising.

Detective Sergeant James Leeks said in a police statement on the case: "Acid attacks ruin lives and have no place in our society.

"It beggars belief that anyone would be prepared to scar someone for life and leave them to live with life-changing injuries for the sake of a phone or a moped."

Additional reporting by agencies

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