A man has been convicted and jailed for shoplifting and attacking store security in Lewisham with ammonia.
Julian Harvey-Bernard, 26, appeared at Woolwich Crown Court on Tuesday January 9, charged with two counts of unlawfully throwing a corrosive fluid, one count of shoplifting, and one count of being in possession of ammonia. He was convicted of all counts and sentenced at the same hearing, to three years' imprisonment.
Police were called to a sports shop at Lewisham Shopping Centre on December 2, 2016 to reports of a corrosive substance attack.
At the scene, two store staff members had confronted Harvey-Bernard when a security tag alarm was activated within the store. When he left the shop the two staff members approached him and he squirted one in the face with ammonia, police said.
Harvey-Bernard attempted to flee the scene, but was pursued by the second staff member whom he also sprayed with ammonia. He was carrying the substance in a Lucozade bottle.
Both victims were taken to hospital where they received treatment for non life-threatening injuries.
Following an investigation by Lewisham CID, Harvey-Bernard was identified and arrest enquiries were made.
He was eventually located on March 15, 2017 at Belmarsh Prison where he was on remand for an unrelated offence of possession of ammonia. He appeared at Bromley Magistrates Court on December 12, where he pleaded guilty to possession of an offensive weapon and shoplifting.
He later pleaded guilty to all offences, including the two counts of throwing a corrosive fluid, on Tuesday January 9 at Woolwich Crown Court.
Investigating officer DC Paul De Waal, of Lewisham CID, said: “During police interview Harvey-Bernard claimed to have been shoplifting to raise cash to buy food. He said that he planned only to use the ammonia in order to effect a fast escape and not to actually injure anybody. This conviction clearly demonstrates that there is no justification for inflicting potentially blinding injuries.
“Anyone considering carrying or using corrosive fluids as a weapon should take heed of today’s conviction.”
Prosecuting barrister Mark Eldridge praised the victims in this case for their bravery throughout the incident and the resultant court proceedings.