— “We victims are disfigured for life. We have to live with this.
— Tougher jail terms for offenders must be introduced
Acid attack victim Adele Bellis feels like she is a serving a life sentence. And she is painfully aware that the man who injured her, melting off her ear and half of her hair, is not.
Jason Harrison – who threw sulphuric acid at Adele on the orders of her possessive ex-boyfriend, Anthony Riley – is now free, after just two-and-a-half years behind bars.
Along with the horrific injuries to her ear and scalp, Adele also suffered horrendous damage to the skin on her neck and arm. She tells how she feels that acid attacks are “worse than murder”.
Echoing Home Secretary Amber Rudd ’s call for tougher sentences, Adele 25, of Lowestoft, Suffolk, says she believes Harrison should still be paying the price for his crime.
Acid could be classed as dangerous weapon and sentences increased after rise in attacks
Speaking before tomorrow’s parliamentary debate on how to tackle with the recent spate of acid attacks, she says:
“He definitely hasn’t served long enough. The justice system is rubbish.
“I don’t feel I have had justice. I think he should have got more than 10 years at least. He was the one who disfigured me, then ran away, and then hid for eight months until the police found him. And all the time I was in hospital.”
“I would say this crime was worse than murder. There were a few times in my recovery when I thought, ‘Why didn’t you kill me?’
“I would rather he had shot me. The amount of pain and trauma I went through, then the years of recovery. It’s such a long process.
“I have not been told where he is, only that he is 200 miles away. When I heard he was coming out I felt vulnerable, helpless. There was nothing I could do. All I can do is try and get on with my life.”
Victim reveals attacker tested corrosive liquid on a sausage first
Harrison, 29, doused beautician Adele with sulphuric acid in 2014 as she waited for a bus to work.
Because her abusive ex, Riley, was the mastermind behind the attack, Harrison was jailed for just four years and four months. He was released in May after serving just over half of his sentence.
Alarmingly, reported assaults involving corrosive substances have nearly trebled in four years, from 248 in 2012 to more than 720 in 2016.
Adele says tougher jail terms for offenders must be introduced.
“We victims are disfigured for life. We have to live with this.
“They should get a longer sentence in prison. I think there should be a set sentence in place, a hard sentence. We are alive but we have to live with the trauma. I still have half a head of hair, no ear. I’m still having counselling and treatment.”
The Daily Mirror is backing campaigners calling for legal changes to combat the problem. Stephen Timms, Labour MP for East Ham in East London, will use the Commons debate to call for tighter restrictions on the sales of corrosive substances, calling for them to only be sold to those holding a license.
Mr Timms will also ask ministers to bring possession of acid – currently not an offence – into line with laws surrounding possession of knives, and introduce harsher sentences for those who carry out such attacks. The MP says: “Too many people are frightened of becoming a victim. Ministers need to act.”
What to do if you witness an acid attack – the crucial steps to help victims
Adele says she is lucky that she managed to turn her head when Harrison threw the acid, meaning most of her face was saved. But she still receives laser treatment every five weeks.
Incredibly, she is empathetic towards Harrison, because she says she understands that Riley forced him to carry out the attack.
For that, Riley was jailed for life, ordered to serve a minimum of 13 years of his prison term. Adele explains that Harrison later wrote to her and apologised for what he had done.