The Local Government Association, and the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners are urging young people to learn about the dangers of spiking and take precautions to stay safe, ahead of the new university term.
While drink spiking has existed for many years, over the past 12 months there has been an increase in reports of drink spiking and needle spiking – a new trend which sees substances administered by needles rather than through drinks.
More than 1,300 reports of needle spiking were made between September 2021 and January 2022 throughout the UK.
As the new academic term approaches, many students will be preparing for freshers week, which is an extremely popular event in the university calendar. Freshers week typically includes themed nights out at local bars and clubs, with many offering a range of drinks for cheaper prices.
While most venues work extremely hard to ensure freshers week stays fun, councils and PCCs are urging students to clue up on the signs of spiking and ways to protect themselves and their friends:
• Don’t accept a drink from a stranger
• Don’t add alcohol to someone’s drink without telling them, this is spiking
• If you think you or someone you’re with has been spiked, tell a bar manager, bouncer or member of staff and report it to the Police
• Try and take a test of both the suspected victim and the drink as soon as possible
• Effects of spiking may vary but symptoms could include loss of balance, feeling sleepy, visual problems, confusion, nausea and vomiting or unconsciousness.
The LGA has also launched new guidance for licensing authorities in a bid to tackle the issue.
Licensing authorities work with venues to help them make improvements following spiking incidents. However, if there are clear and persistent failings at a venue, a licensing authority can take direct action to address spiking through their licensing committee, which has the power to decide to suspend or revoke a premise’s licence.
Where premises have had their licence revoked due to safety concerns and they appeal the decision, they are currently able to continue trading until their case is heard in court. With current capacity challenges within the courts, this process could take months.
As a result, the LGA and APCC are calling for the Government to commit to tightening up this loophole to ensure swift action is taken following a serious safeguarding incident.
Cllr Nesil Caliskan, Chair of the LGA’s Safer and Stronger Communities Board, said:
“Everyone should be able to enjoy a night out without the worry of their drinks being tampered with. We urge all students to make sure they are aware of the risks of spiking and for victims to report any incidents to the police and members of staff at licensed premises.
“Councils play a vital, preventative role by not only working with a range of partners to improve safeguarding measures within the night-time economy but also through the licensing system to address specific concerns against a venue.
“It is good that the Government has taken steps to commit funding for anti-spiking initiatives, but changes are still needed to existing safeguarding measures within the licensing regime to ensure they are effective.”
APCC Addictions and Substance Misuse Joint Leads and Police and Crime Commissioners, David Sidwick and Joy Allen, said:
“Spiking is a despicable and incredibly dangerous act which can have devastating consequences for victims.
“It is also a crime that often goes under reported and that it why it is so important that we encourage victims to report all incidents to the police.
“As Police and Crime Commissioners we are working with our national and local partners to tackle spiking, identifying offenders and provide support to victims.
“Earlier this year a Home Affairs Committee Inquiry into spiking proposed several recommendations to bring improvements to the way spiking incidents are reported and investigated, one of which was to make spiking a separate offence, something which we wholeheartedly support.
“Victims should never feel ashamed or that it is their fault, and it is vital the police are aware so that perpetrators can be identified and brought to justice, and we can prevent others from falling victim to this heinous crime.”