Priti Patel orders police to clamp down on ‘syringe spiking’

·4-min read
Nightclub - Rob Pinney
Nightclub - Rob Pinney

The Home Secretary has asked police chiefs to urgently assess the scale of the problem of women being “spiked by injection” after a spate of reported incidents across the UK.

It is feared victims are being surreptitiously injected with an unknown substance that makes them more vulnerable to unwanted sexual advances or assault.

At least three police forces are conducting investigations into alleged incidents and one man in his 20s has been arrested by Nottinghamshire Police.

Such is the growing level of concern about the phenomenon that some women have resorted to wearing denim on nights out, because the thicker material is more difficult to pierce with a needle.

Call to boycott pubs and clubs

Others are urging a boycott of pubs and clubs in order to raise awareness of the issue and encourage better protective measures inside venues.

While the spiking of drinks with drugs has been a recognised problem for a number of years, the emergence of the use of needles is a recent development.

Sarah Crew, the temporary chief constable for Avon and Somerset Police, told MPs on the Home Affairs Select Committee it was a “fair assumption there may be a sexual motive” in such cases.

Priti Patel, the Home Secretary, has now asked police chiefs for an urgent update on the scale of the problem and is also demanding to know what is being done to better protect women.

A source said: “This is absolutely awful. We have asked for an update from the police on this and would encourage anyone to report this behaviour to the police.”

‘Sharp, agonising pain’

Earlier this week, Zara Owen, a Nottingham University student, revealed that she had contacted police after experiencing a blackout following a night out. She woke to discover a pinprick on her leg.

Ms Owen said she woke up the next morning with “almost zero recollection from that night” and with a “sharp, agonising pain” in her leg.

Nottinghamshire Police confirmed that it had received several reports of spiking in recent months and has arrested a man as part of a wider operation.

Superintendent Kathryn Craner, of Nottinghamshire Police, said: “Over the last few months we have seen an increase in reports where people believe that drugs may have been put in their drink.

"But we’ve also received a small number of reports where people are telling us, as Zara has, that this has been associated with a pain or a mark on a part of their body, scratching sensation, and as though they have been physically spiked.”

Police Scotland said detectives were investigating reports of people being spiked by injection in bars and clubs in Edinburgh, Dundee, Glasgow and Stirling. West Yorkshire Police said they had received one report of spiking by injection, which officers were investigating.

Merseyside Police said officers had investigated a number of reports that had been circulating on social media, but had not found any evidence of specific incidents.

Young people concerned issue is not being taken seriously

Supt Craner said forces were introducing a number of initiatives in order to “apprehend perpetrators and capture evidence”.

She said if anyone was caught they would face prosecution for assault, as well as offences for administering substances with sexual intent.

Yvette Cooper, the chairman of the select committee, demanded information from police on the scale of the problem and action being taken, amid concern among young people that it was not been taken seriously by police.

“This is incredibly dangerous," she said. "This is poisoning someone, potentially sexually assaulting someone, potentially putting people’s lives at risk.

"There is huge concern from young people that this is not being taken seriously. They are talking about boycotting nightclubs. Are police forces taking it seriously?”

Nick Thomas-Symonds, Labour’s shadow home secretary, said: “The reports of this vile act are terrifying – and yet another example of the appalling violence faced by women and girls, day in day out.

“This awful crime needs to be clamped down on without delay. That must involve bringing together the police, venues, universities and – crucially – listening to women who have been attacked.

"The Home Secretary should deliver action without delay, to help prevent this happening again, bring those responsible to justice and ensure they face the full force of the law.”

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