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Spiking will be targeted by police and door staff in a raft of new measures unveiled yesterday (Monday 18 December) by the Home Secretary James Cleverly as the festive party-going season gets into full swing.

The new package will see changes to the legislation, research into self-testing kits, more training for door staff and better education for young people, to raise awareness about the threat. There will also be coordinated police action to crackdown on spiking during key weeks of the year – an approach that has proved successful in tackling other crimes, such as knife crime.

The step up to tackle spiking comes as the government prepares to clarify under the Criminal Justice Bill, that without any doubt, spiking is illegal. It will be backed with separate guidance, set in law, to provide a clear, unequivocal definition of what spiking is. This will give victims renewed confidence to come forward, increase public awareness of the crime and enforce that perpetrators will face up to 10 years behind bars.

Alongside this, the government will set out practical measures aimed at improving understanding of the crime and delivering better support to victims.

This includes: 

  • training hundreds more door staff to spot potential perpetrators and signs patrons have been victimised
  • investing in research into spiking testing kits to help venues and police detect if someone’s drink has been spiked in real-time
  • intensive operations run by the National Police Chiefs Council (NPCC) to tackle spiking during key weeks across the 43 police forces in England and Wales
  • an online spiking tool to be rolled out to all police forces to make it easier to anonymously report it if people fear they have been a victim of the crime
  • updated statutory guidance to include spiking (s182 Licensing Act 2003)
  • a spiking guidance/advice toolkit for the public that contains a range of resources and signposting for anyone who is looking for information on spiking, what it is, who is affected, how to report it, how to support victims, and which criminal offences can be used to prosecute it
  • supporting the higher education regulator, the Office for Students, as they take action to make sure universities and other higher education institutions to prevent and address sexual misconduct – this will follow its consultation on the issue, expected to report back in early 2024

Amending Legislation

Home Secretary, James Cleverly said: “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.”

“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.”

Minister for Victims and Safeguarding, Laura Farris said: “Spiking is an insidious and predatory act which is already illegal under existing laws.”

“We are amending legislation to make the offence explicit and capture the modern day nature of the threat.”

“Taken alongside new measures to improve the way the police respond to incidents, and better equipping venue staff to identify, respond and protect their customers, we are sending a clear message that perpetrators of this crime should expect to be caught and face justice.”

Training Essential

UKHospitality Chief Executive Kate Nicholls said: “The safety of customers is a top priority for hospitality businesses, so highlighting and informing measures to prevent spiking is important.

“Education and proper training are essential and hospitality businesses continue to work tirelessly to prevent spiking.

“We’re committed to working with sector partners to provide venues with up-to-date advice and guidance on best practice to prevent spiking, as well as with the Home Office on measures like these.”

Recognising Risks

Sarah Taylor, licensing partner at Keystone Law said: “The government plans include several initiatives to raise awareness of spiking and how to deal with it, including training door staff to spot the signs of potential spiking, investment for research into spiking kits which would allow real-time testing of drinks, the development of an online tool to enable easier anonymous reporting of alleged offences and an update to the statutory guidance under section 182 of the Licensing Act 2003.”

“It is essential for operators to recognise the risks of spiking, implement measures to mitigate the risks and to ensure that their staff are trained to spot the signs and to effectively deal with alleged incidents of spiking in a consistent and effective way. Operators have a duty to promote the four licensing objectives, and two of those are the prevention of crime and disorder and public safety. Failure to do so can result in enforcement action being taken by the Authorities and a premises licence may be at risk if there have been multiple allegations of spiking at the premises and the incidents have not been dealt with effectively.”

Deep Disappointment

Michael Kill, CEO of the Night Time Industries Association, expressed deep disappointment today regarding the government’s new measures to address drink spiking. In a statement, Kill remarked that the omission of spiking as a specific crime in the latest measures falls significantly short of expectations, considering the gravity and far-reaching impact of this criminal activity.

“Drink spiking is a serious and prevalent issue that poses a threat to the safety and well-being of individuals within our community. The government’s failure to designate spiking as a distinct crime is disheartening and does not reflect the need to address this growing concern,” Kill stated.

He emphasised the importance of clear crime categories, particularly in light of challenges related to legacy data. “To effectively combat drink spiking, we need a comprehensive and dedicated approach. The absence of a specific crime category undermines our ability to gather accurate data and develop targeted strategies to tackle this menace.”

Kill urged the government to reconsider its stance and collaborate with industry stakeholders to ensure that adequate measures are in place to protect the public from the detrimental effects of drink spiking. The Night Time Industries Association remains committed to working with authorities to create safer environments for nightlife patrons across the country.