Drink-spiking is at ‘epidemic’ levels in UK, campaigners tell MPs

Up to 15% of women and 7% of men have been spiked with alcohol or drugs, select committee hears

Drink- and drug-spiking has reached “epidemic” levels in the UK and is now so common it can happen to anyone, campaigners have told a new parliamentary inquiry into the problem.

The home affairs select committee was told that up to 15% of women and 7% of men have been spiked with alcohol or drugs.

Hannah Stratton, a 51-year-old from Cornwall, told the committee that she was “violently ill” when her drink was drugged at a “quiet bar” in Newquay.

She also revealed that her two daughters had suffered the same fate, and told MPs: “Now the conversation seems to be not, ‘Has anybody been drugged this weekend?’ It’s, ‘Who has been drugged this weekend?’ It’s so commonplace.”

When Stratton blogged about her experience, she said she was contacted by 100 people who said the same had happened to them, the committee heard.

Helena Conibear, the chief executive of the Alcohol Education Trust (AET), said its survey of 747 people found that 94 (12.6%) had been spiked, with a prevalence of 15% among females and 7% among males.

“Shockingly, only 8% of those who’d been spiked reported it to the police or to a medic,” she said.

She pointed out that a separate survey of 23,000 students from 19 universities showed that 11% of them had been spiked.

Conibear told the committee: “We need more research into what is driving what is truly an epidemic. If one in 10 people are experiencing spiking, we really have to do something about it.”

She said: “Our message is it can be any drink, in pretty much any location and it can happen to any person.”

She added that 35% of incidents occurred at private parties. “What is very frightening about that is that spiking is taking place, or being permitted by, a wider friendship group.”

Conibear and Dawn Dines, the founder of the Stamp Out Spiking campaign, urged MPs to recommend making spiking a specific criminal offence.

Conibear said: “The reason why spiking is so prevalent is because the perpetrators know that there are no ramifications at the moment.”

The MPs were told that data released by 23 police forces under freedom of information laws showed there were 1,466 reports of spiking incidents last year, up from 722 in the year before.

Conibear said: “There were just nine charges in 2019, eight in 2020, and one that we’re aware of in 2021.”

The Conservative MP James Daly asked the witnesses if they thought spiking was the “most widespread criminal repeated act at this moment in time in this country”. Both Conibear and Dines said it was.

Zara Owen, a 20-year-old student at Nottingham University, told the committee how she was injected with drugs while at a nightclub last year. “I woke up with a really sharp, agonising pain in my leg, which left me limping. The fact that someone has injected a narcotic into my body without me being aware is terrifying.”

The former children’s minister Tim Loughton praised Owen for speaking about the problem. He said: “When I was at school, this is what happened to Bulgarian secret agents or in James Bond movies.”

Alexi Skitinis told MPs he had “severe” kidney problems after having his drink spiked at a club in Las Vegas.

Skitinis, from south Wales, said: “Three days later I ended up in hospital. Obviously, it was a very scary time. I want to make people aware of this. I know the majority of people who are spiked are females, but anyone can be spiked at any time. I didn’t touch alcohol for nearly two years after.”

He said he didn’t report it. He said: “It would have been brushed under the carpet.”


Matthew Weaver

The GuardianTramp

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