Priti Patel urges review of date-rape drugs after Reynhard Sinaga case

<span>Photograph: Gareth Fuller/PA</span>
Photograph: Gareth Fuller/PA

The home secretary, Priti Patel, has called for an urgent review into whether more stringent controls are needed for date rape drugs such as GHB after the sentencing of Britain’s most prolific rapist.

Reynhard Sinaga, 36, is believed to have used GHB (gamma-hydroxybutyric acid) to incapacitate dozens of young men before raping or sexually assaulting them in his flat in Manchester city centre. The mature student, originally from Indonesia, was jailed for a minimum of 30 years on Monday.

Patel urged the independent Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs to review current controls of the drug. She said: “Sinaga committed truly sickening crimes and it is right that he has been sentenced to life imprisonment. I extend my heartfelt sympathy to his victims and my gratitude to the police and prosecutors who worked on this case and put him behind bars.

“I’m deeply concerned by the use of illegal drugs like GHB to perpetrate these crimes and have asked the independent Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs to expedite a review looking at whether our controls for these drugs are tough enough.”

The jury in Sinaga’s trial heard he had probably sedated his victims with drinks spiked with powdered GHB or its liquid equivalent, GBL (gamma-butyrolactone), which is used as a paint stripper and cleaning fluid but has become popular in the gay chemsex scene.

Related: Reynhard Sinaga jailed for life for raping dozens of men in Manchester

To prove its case, the prosecution relied on expert evidence from Dr Simon Elliott, a consultant forensic toxicologist. He told the jury that one of the effects of GHB/GBL is anterograde amnesia, where someone is unable to make new memories and cannot remember anything about the period of intoxication. About 15 minutes after taking one small dose (deliberately or otherwise), a person may fall into a deep sleep or even become unconscious, and may not be able to remember anything for seven hours, Elliott said.

One police specialist who gave evidence to the court said GHB was easy to buy online from China, with five litres selling for as little as £300. Dealers sold the drug in 15ml or 30ml vials, with users sometimes measuring out their own doses with small plastic fishes used for soy sauce in sushi packs. Just 1ml was enough to knock someone out, he claimed.

But the drug can also be used for nefarious means and overdosing is very common and sometimes fatal. That Sinaga did not kill someone was, said the prosecutor, Iain Simkin, “just good luck”.