An investigation has begun after a defendant doused himself with acid as he was being sentenced in court.
Marc Marshall, 54, was in the dock of Inner London Crown Court after being jailed for fraud when he poured a noxious substance onto his face.
He is in a critical condition in hospital and a female custody officer who was guarding him in the dock was also treated.
The Courts Service said it was “deeply concerned” about Monday’s incident.
The case is likely to raise searching questions about security in court buildings and how the liquid, which has not yet been identified, was apparently taken into the dock.
Marshall had been carrying a metal water bottle – although CCTV footage is believed to have shown that he had sipped from it as he passed through security.
The incident occurred at the south London court after Marshall had pleaded guilty to a series of cheque fraud offences involving £135,000.
When the judge imposed a sentence of two years and four months imprisonment, Marshall was heard to wail and scream.
According to one person who was present at the time, the defendant’s face went white and there was a smell of acid.
“It looked like he had glue on his skin,” the witness said.
Court officials ferried water jugs to the dock to dilute the substance on Marshall’s face.
It is thought he had also drunk some of the liquid.
He was treated at the scene by a paramedic – who is said to have described his injuries as “life-threatening” – and taken by ambulance to St Thomas’ Hospital.
The case had already been delayed because Marshall, who has changed his name a number of times, suffered serious medical problems after stabbing himself in the neck when he was arrested by police in 2016.
A HM Courts and Tribunals Service spokesperson said: “The safety and security of all court users is our priority and we’re deeply concerned about the incident.
“Police are urgently investigating what happened and it would be inappropriate to comment further at this stage.”
The Metropolitan Police said they were called to Court 10, Inner London Crown Court at 12:01 BST on Monday after reports of a serious assault.
“Officers, London Ambulance Service and London Air Ambulance attended and found a male aged in his fifties was found to have doused himself with a noxious substance.
“He has been taken to hospital for treatment of his injuries. His condition is critical.
“A female dock officer was also injured by some of the substance. Her injuries are not believed to be serious and she did not require hospital treatment.”