Nightclubs and pubs could get spiking test kits under new crackdown

A raft of measures have been announced after govermnet comes under pressure to tackle drink spiking

Alex Ross
Sunday 17 December 2023 23:31 GMT
Self-testing kits could be rolled out to staff in nightclubs, pubs and restaurants under the government’s plan
Self-testing kits could be rolled out to staff in nightclubs, pubs and restaurants under the government’s plan

Staff at nightclubs, pubs and restaurants could receive self-testing kits to help them tell whether someone’s drink has been spiked, as minsters launch a crackdown on the growing issue.

Under a package unveiled by Home Secretary James Cleverly, funding will be given for research into testing kits, while training will be provided for door staff. “Intensive operations” targeting the spiking of drinks will also be done on key weeks by police.

Nearly 5,000 cases of needle and drink spiking incidents were reported to police in England and Wales in the 12 months to September 2022, according to National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) figures.

Drink spiking is when someone puts drugs into another’s drink or directly into their body without their knowledge or consent.

Ministers had also come under pressure to make needle and drink spiking a specific offence, but the announcement stops short of that demand. Instead, the Home Office sets out a number of practical steps it is taking to protect women, heading into the festive partygoing season.

Alongside plans to amend the Criminal Justice Bill and update the Offences Against The Person Act 1861, officials said hundreds more door staff will be trained to spot potential perpetrators and signs of spiking.

“Tackling violence against women and girls is a personal priority for me and this Government has shown time and again that we will do what is necessary to keep the public safe,” Home Secretary James Cleverly said.

“Spiking is a perverse crime which can have a lasting impact on victims. Our comprehensive new measures are designed to help police and staff in bars, restaurants, pubs and other premises to protect victims and bring more offenders to justice.”

The Home Office also said an online tool will be rolled out to all police forces to make anonymous reporting of suspected spiking easier, with new guidance for the public also to be published.

Following a consultation, the Government said it will also support regulator the Office for Students to take action to prevent sexual misconduct in universities and colleges.

The Home Office had already confirmed plans for separate statutory guidance that it said will provide a “clear” and “unequivocal” definition of spiking. This is expected to take the form of an update to the guidance issued under Section 182 of the Licensing Act 2003.

Spiking is currently covered by several different areas of legislation but there is no single dedicated offence under which to prosecute perpetrators.

The NPCC’s Samantha Millar, who works to tackle violence against women and girls, said: “Spiking is a complex and challenging offence to investigate.”

She said “people should be in no doubt that spiking is an abhorrent crime and the new clarity in the legislation should drive that message home”.

“We still believe that there is underreporting of spiking and so our message remains to encourage victims to report to police,” she added.

The measures have been welcomed by campaigners, including the founder of Stamp Out Spiking Dawn Dines, who called it “monumental”.

“I am so relieved that finally some sort of justice will be available to the survivors of this cowardly offence,” she said.

Alex Davies-Jones, Labour’s shadow minister for domestic violence and safeguarding, said: “The Conservatives are finally moving in the right direction but there is more work to do when, as figures from earlier this year showed, spiking reports had risen fivefold but the proportion leading to charges fell.

“Labour have called for spiking to be made a separate offence to increase people coming forward and the chance for convictions, and for every police force to have a rape and serious sexual offence unit.”

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