Feature: The truth about drink spiking in the UK

drink spiking
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Eva Rodericks breaks down the recent reports that drink spiking has reached a ‘record high’ and asks if significant change can be expected anytime soon?

By Eva Rodericks | Features Editor 

A surge in the number of reported spikings across the UK is causing concern amongst student populations and wider society.

Drink spiking has a notoriously low conviction rate and has often been seen as something that simply “just happens”. But recently, a new wave of criticism has emerged following reports that a student in Nottingham was spiked by a needle whilst enjoying a night out.

Although it can often be difficult to fully grasp the severity of drink spiking in the UK due to a lack of data, it has recently been suggested by the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) that 198 reports of drink-spiking related incidents were confirmed between September and October – This statistic represents an increase from previous months.

There have been mixed responses to this increase with a number of groups calling for a more transparent discussion and education on the impact of drink spiking, whilst others are calling for the UK Government to make it mandatory for nightclubs to search people as they enter.

It seems, therefore, that drink spiking remains to be a key issue for students and other young people on nights out.

With all of this in mind, Gair Rhydd took a look at the ‘truth’ behind this recent rise of drink spiking in the UK and (more importantly) what different initiatives and schemes are currently doing to support students around Cardiff and the rest of the UK.

The truth about drink spiking in the UK

Matilda’s story

Matilda Wright, from London, was visiting her boyfriend in Manchester when things took a terrible turn. After having just one drink in the club Matilda began to feel “dizzy and tired”.

Detailing the events, she said that, “I went to the smoking area with my boyfriend and was leaning over the rails. A bouncer pulled me and kicked me out of the club which was so dangerous as they just didn’t pick up my symptoms nor care”.

“My boyfriend and his flat mates got me back in the club then noticed I wasn’t okay and took me home. I was shivering at home, they put loads of coats and a hot water bottle on me but I was still freezing”.

Her boyfriend called the ambulance service for assistance. The paramedics took Matilda’s heart rate at 8:30 AM which showed a reading of 120 BPM, similar to someone
running. She explained that “slept it off ” and felt “very tired and zoned out the following day” – Matilda revealed that she hasn’t been clubbing since.

The teenager believes that GHB (also known as the ‘date rape drug’) was put in her drink, as she had the common symptoms associated with this drug.

“I’m just so angry about the situation”, Matilda said.

The ‘Big Night In’ Boycotts in Cardiff

A “Big Night In” was staged at the end of October in Cardiff, Swansea, Oxford, Manchester, London and many more cities. This involved women and men boycotting
all clubs for one night to protest against how little is being done to tackle spiking.

In Cardiff, this took place on Friday the 29th of October. The organisers of the ‘Big Night In’ Cardiff have put together a comprehensive list of demands they believe will create safer nightlife for all.

Firstly, they say we need “Regular and comprehensive welfare training for all nightclub and bar staff as well as agency staff like security”. This training would teach people “how to intervene in situations involving spiking and sexual harassment, as well as helping those directly affected by these issues with their immediate welfare”.

Their second demand, they explained, asks for “a designated and identifiable welfare officer who is trained to help ensure the safety of club-goers. The campaigners say that this would help club-goers feel safer and prevent the need for police presence. To ensure the welfare of punters, “clubs and bars should provide anti spiking devices and equipment such as drinks covers and spiking test strips to aid prevention and detection”.

Finally, they ask that clubs “have a clearly communicated zero-tolerance policy on spiking”. The organisers of the ‘Big Night In’ stress the importance of people who have been spiked knowing the policies and procedures they can follow.

What is being done to prevent drink spiking?

A local bar manager, Lewis Cole, told Gair Rhydd that “on the night it’s incredibly hard to distinguish between one too many drinks and a person who has been spiked. That being said, we always maintain vigilance and remove anyone who is seen to be tampering with a drink in any way.”

In Lewis’ place of work there are “cameras and security to aid in spotting or catching anyone trying to spike a drink both proactively and retroactively,” and they also “implement the ‘Ask Angela’ policy for anyone who feels they may be in an unsafe situation”.

From his perspective, Lewis said that, “this is the best we can offer at this time.”

Lewis emphasises the need to ensure a drink is never left unattended  – He believes that this would lead to a drop in the number of spikings. Further, he says customers should avoid accepting drinks from strangers.

A recent statement from the Cardiff Student Union revealed a list of measures being worked on which include “Drink Spiking Test Kits, Private Medical Staff, Drink Toppers, Safe Taxi Scheme, Safety Bus, Security Staff, Searches on Entry [and] Extensive CCTV and Body Cameras”.

Students have said that drink covers have been provided at recent SU events, including ‘Yoloween’.

A number of students have also taken matters into their own hands.

‘Walk together Cardiff ’ is a new project being led by Cardiff sports clubs to ensure party-goers can get home safely in response to the recent concerns being raised online about spiking and harassment.

They walk a group of people home on the hour, every hour between 11 PM and 3 AM on Saturday nights, starting at the Hilton Hotel in Car- diff city centre. They then stop off at the Student Union, Misfits bar, The Woodville Pub and Talybont halls. They can be reached via direct mes- saging on Instagram and spotted in their red tops.

A Cardiff University Spokesperson says a joint Student Safety Forum “where students will be invited to a safe space to talk to staff about their concerns” has been agreed to, the date of which is yet to be confirmed – All Cardiff University students will be welcome to attend.

The Home Secretary, Priti Patel has ordered an urgent police inquiry into spiking, with a special interest in attacks using needles. She maintained that the report may give a clearer understanding of this new phenomenon and the scale of the issue.

Campaigning by several groups poses hope for a reduction in the number of spikings if clubs commit to supplying drink covers and con- ducting searches for drugs on entry.

Until such commitments are made, it is difficult to predict the future safety of clubs and pubs. The number of reported spikings remains high, and it is clear there will no overnight fix to this issue.

Eva Rodericks Jack Robert Stacey Features 

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