Drink spiking is something that more and more women are being put in danger of – and now they're being blamed for it too.
Victims of 'spiking' – when someone puts alcohol or drugs into another person's body without their knowledge and/or consent – are too often being brushed off as having had 'one too many', which has contributed to the crime being hugely underreported, an investigation by MPs unearths.
Barriers to reporting the incident in England and Wales include "the belief that the police won't do anything", "not knowing where to report" and "concern that it's too late to report", finds the Home Affairs Committee report.
Anecdotal evidence suggests spiking is "widespread and dangerous", and that many people, "particularly young, particularly women" are affected by it (though others are targeted too) and have fears they will be spiked on evenings out.
However, the MPs found insufficient data to accurately judge just how widespread and dangerous the problem is, highlighting that policy initiatives to reduce both spiking and the fear of it cannot be fully implemented without reliable evidence.
Of the 1,895 spiking victims surveyed for the inquiry in December and January, nearly nine in 10 said they received no support after the incident, while fewer than a third reported it, and in most cases no further action was taken.
Victims also brought to light the attitudes of door staff of pubs and clubs. Helena Conibear, Chief Executive Officer, The Alcohol Education Trust told the MPs a change in culture was required among "A&E, GPs, the police and any of the frontline people who first meet somebody, including door staff and anybody in the night-time economy", to move away from presuming someone was just drunk, and recognising they could be a victim of spiking.
Many others also reportedly referred to the culture of victim blaming. Geraint Davies MP said, “The non-reporting or action by the police or the 'she’s probably drunk' assumption is a cultural and operational deficiency that needs correction and explains the gulf between police understanding and assumptions.”
The inquiry was launched after a sudden increase in reported spiking incidents in the UK last October, including needle spiking. The National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) reported 1,032 cases of needle injection between the beginning of September 2021 and the end of December 2022, most of which occurred in October 2021.
The report's recommendations include local authorities to require night-time venues with 'poor spiking records' and an obligation to improve if they want to keep their licences, as well as a support package to help these venues hire more and better trained door staff, particularly women.
It has also called for a national anti-spiking communications campaign to encourage victims to come forward and make it clear it's a serious offence with up to 10 years in jail. Other recommendations were for all police forces to provide rapid testing to anyone who reports being spiked.
Safeguarding Minister Rachel Maclean said: “Spiking is a cowardly act which can ruin lives, so I welcome this report and will carefully consider every recommendation.
“The Home Secretary has confirmed the Home Office is looking at how best to prepare a specific criminal offence and has asked the National Police Chiefs’ Council to urgently review the extent and scale of the issue.
“We have already reclassified GHB and introduced harsher sentences for anyone found with this spiking drug on them without cause. And are not afraid to legislate if it will help the police and courts better tackle the issue.”
Watch: 'The memory loss is extreme': Student fears she was spiked by injection on night out