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The number of assaults involving acid throwing and other corrosive substances has tripled in six years in England, official records show.

Experts say they believe many of the cases involving acid are linked to Asian communities, with women attacked by their husbands and punished for refusing forced marriages, while men were attacked during disputes over dowries.

Latest NHS hospital figures record 144 assaults in 2011/12 involving corrosive substances, which can also include petrol, bleach and kerosene.

Six years earlier, 56 such episodes were noted.

Jaf Shah, executive director of Acid Survivors Trust International said that many attacks in Britain were not reported, because women targeted lived in fear of reprisals.

He said: “There is a reluctance among women in the Asian community to come forward; these attacks do not usually come from strangers, but from someone close to them in the community – a husband, a father, or their family.”

The figures show that while the largest group of those attacked were aged between 15 and 59, high numbers of pensioners were attacked using such substances. Last year, one such attack was recorded on a child below the age of 14.

Last December, a 20-year-old shop worker, Naomi Omi, was scarred for life and almost blinded after being attacked by a woman, who she said was dressed in a niqab, in Dagenham, East London.

In May a 28-year-old woman living in Romford, North East London, was left horrific injuries to her face and upper body, after she opened the door to a stranger, and was squirted with an acidic substance.

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