British police have charged a teenager with a spate of London acid attacks, as authorities considered whether tougher sentences would curb a spike in assaults with corrosive liquids.
The Metropolitan Police force said late Saturday that a 16-year-old boy faces 15 charges, including grievous bodily harm. The boy, who can't be named because of his age, was arrested after five moped riders were sprayed with a corrosive substance during a 90-minute period last week.
One man was left with life-changing injuries, police said. At least two of those attacked were drivers for food delivery services Deliveroo and UberEATS.
A 15-year-old boy who was also arrested has been released on bail.
Amid mounting public concern, the British government said it is considering increasing sentences for acid attacks to a maximum of life. Home Secretary Amber Rudd wrote in the Sunday Times newspaper that those who use noxious liquids as a weapon should "feel the full force of the law."
London police say the number of reported attacks with corrosive liquids rose from 261 in 2015 to 454 in 2016. Some appear related to gang activity or the theft of cars and motorbikes.
The latest assaults come after several other high-profile attacks, including one in which a man is accused of throwing acid at an aspiring model and her cousin as they sat in their car. A 25-year-old man has been charged in that case.
In April, acid was sprayed at a crowded east London club night, leaving two revelers partially blinded and others disfigured. A man has been charged and is awaiting trial.
The spike in attacks has prompted some lawmakers to call for restrictions on the sale and carrying of corrosive liquids such as sulfuric acid.
London's police chief, Cressida Dick, said officers were concerned by the increase in the "completely barbaric" attacks. "We will arrest people, we will enforce the law as we can, and we are working very closely with [the government] to try to see if there is any changes in the law required," she told LBC radio.