Offensive Weapons Bill

 Written evidence submitted by Samuel Boyre Taylor of Tayna Ltd t/a Tayna Batteries (OWB147)

In its current wording the bill would effectively put an end to the online sale of all types of lead acid battery and risk putting many suppliers out of business.

Whilst I fully support any steps to reduce violent crime, I feel that this legislation will have a major impact on the sale and supply of batteries, which I believe the bill has no intention to control.

From the list of the organisations that responded during the consultation period last year I see that there isn’t a single representative from the battery sector. Our company was not aware of this bill until very recently nor were any other I have spoken to in the battery trade. This again leads me to believe that batteries have not even been considered and will be unfairly dealt with by this bill.

Introduction

Tayna Batteries is the largest online direct-to-consumer, specialist lead acid battery retailer in the UK. We employ 40 members of staff with a turnover of £9.5M. We distribute 200,000 batteries to residential addresses per annum.

We as a business understand the need for legislation to control corrosive substances. The increase in acid attacks in our country is of great concern and we support any work to make our streets safer.

I am submitting evidence to bring to your attention that lead acid batteries should not be included in the definition of a ‘corrosive substance’, as they are in practice safe to handle and could not possibly be used as an offensive weapon.

Key Points

1) Lead Acid Batteries are Everywhere

Every car, motorcycle, bus, taxi, caravan, boat, lawnmower, electric wheelchair, house alarm, stairlift, electric golf trolley, lorry and jet ski has a lead acid battery fitted for its operation. Batteries are an unavoidable part of day-to-day life.

There are so many different sizes and types of lead acid battery for many different applications, that a high street store would never be able to supply them all. Only a specialist online supplier would be able to service this market in full.

2) New EPP Legislation already covers the sale of sulphuric acid

On 1st July 2018 the new EPP legislation was passed which controls the sale of sulphuric acid. Under this legislation sulphuric acid is allowed to be sold as long as it is contained within a specific object. The following is the wording from the EPP legislation:

"(9)For the purposes of this section, a substance or mixture is "excluded" if-

(a)it is medicinal, or

(b)it is contained in a specific object."

I feel this is the correct approach and should be adopted by the offensive weapons bill.

3) No evidence of batteries used in acid attacks

To date there is no evidence of battery acid being used in an acid attack. Every acid attack reported has been a different acid or a far more concentrated (over 90%) sulphuric acid used as industrial cleaners.

4) Battery acid in batteries DOES NOT cause burns to skin

Sulphuric acid in batteries is between 35-39% w/w and classed as a dilute solution. At this concentration the solution will cause irritation to the skin but will not cause burns. I have handled battery acid regularly over the past 20 years and can confirm unequivocally that it does not burn skin. The following is taken from the Public Health England document on sulphuric acid:

"Strong solutions of sulphuric acid are highly corrosive and can cause skin burns on contact; they may also damage the eyes. Dilute solutions may cause irritation to the eyes and skin."

I asked for the opinion of James Klang, an American battery scientist of over 40 years experience, for his educated opinion. He is quoted below:

"Battery acid is unfortunately coupled with the properties of concentrated sulfuric acid and a history of scary urban myths. The dilution of concentrated sulfuric acid with water largely removes its highly exothermic hygroscopic properties upon which the fears are focused. The two materials should be categorized separately, but they most often are not."

There is no way battery acid could cause the injuries associated with the acid attacks we have seen in recent years.

5) Impact on our business

Our whole business is built around the idea of distributing batteries directly to customers’ homes. There is a real need for our service - for example, when a car battery fails, in many cases the owner cannot get to the shops to purchase a new battery due to their vehicle being incapacitated.

We are the second largest employer in our town, directly employing 40 staff, and indirectly supporting at least that number at suppliers and associated delivery companies. If this bill is passed in its current form, it would have a devastating impact on our business and others, leaving many people out of work and leaving an opening for foreign companies to sell specialist lead acid batteries directly to UK buyers avoiding this legislation.

6) Traceability

The vast majority of sales conducted at a bricks and mortar store are completely untraceable, especially so if the transaction were completed using cash.

Every single sale that is taken online leaves a detailed audit trail. The retailer will have full details of the customer including contact information, complete delivery address, recipient signature and even details about the computer used such as manufacturer, operating system, web browser, the user’s ISP and IP address.

Higher up the chain from the retailer, the payment card processing companies hold full detail of card usage, spend patterns, repeat orders from similar types of retailers for delivery to the same address.

From the detailed footprint left behind when any online purchase is made, any unusual purchasing activity at related stores can easily be identified.

7) Other Potential Unintended Consequences

A. All children’s electric toy cars are powered by a battery containing sulphuric acid. Under the proposed legislation it would be illegal to buy a child’s toy online and have it delivered to a residential address. It would also be illegal for a minor to buy a toy containing a lead acid battery from the high street.

B. This bill would also leave young car drivers or motorcycle riders helpless in a breakdown. If a roadside rescue service diagnosed a faulty battery at the side of the road, the young person could not buy a replacement battery to fix the car. Equally, they would not be able to purchase a battery from a shop for their vehicle.

Conclusion

I propose that lead acid batteries be made exempt from this bill in a similar manner to which they have been excluded in the recent EPP legislation.

The fact that a lead acid battery could in no way be used as an offensive weapon further supports their exclusion from the offensive weapons bill.

I would welcome the opportunity to give oral evidence to the committee as the impact of this bill on my life and business in its current form would be catastrophic.

Samuel Taylor

Tayna Ltd

www.tayna.co.uk

August 2018

 

Prepared 30th August 2018