This information has been developed by a cross-sector group looking to reduce
risk for licensed premises and so ensure the safety of the public, premises staff
and officers and provide clarity for all involved.

Drink Spiking

There are obvious concerns about the recent reports of “spiking” in hospitality venues. Drink
spiking is not a new issue, but these latest incidents contain a more sinister element with
allegations of substances being administered by needles.

There is also concern for the safety of the victims, who appear to consist mainly of female
students. This comes at a time when the safety of women and girls in the night-time
economy is a Government priority.

There are also reputational and commercial implications for the type of venues involved and
the areas in which they are located.

It is therefore reassuring to see such a swift response from the authorities in the towns and
cities affected, who have engaged with all the relevant parties, including the operators of
licensed premises, to adopt a collaborative approach to the current situation.

The issue has arisen in several parts of the UK. On a national scale there are some
interesting points to note:

  • there have been no reports of secondary offending (e.g., sexual offences),
  • only a limited number of toxicology results have been provided as yet, all of which
    have been negative for drugs, and
  • there have been no criminal charges arising out of the allegations. By 25th November
    there had been more than 450 reports of needle spiking in the UK.

Based on these statistics, it is unclear whether the reports of needle spiking relate to actual
usage of sharps or perceived only, and if actual, whether those were for the purposes of
administering substances, or were “hoax” or copycat in nature. There is much about the
current situation that is not understood at this time. There is no doubt that the issue
attracted wide media attention in early November 2021 which appears to have abated.

Despite the uncertainty, the issue is being taken seriously and several measures have been
proposed for implementation in licensed premises:

  • All Incidents must be reported to the police
  • appropriate training should be provided to relevant members of staff, and this is
    likely to be particularly helpful if it highlights wider issues about vulnerability in
    licensed premises, and the resources available
  • searching procedures should be reviewed and amended as necessary,
    information (e.g., posters) regarding drink spiking may be provided,
  • metal detectors (wands) may be used as a deterrent although they do not detect
    needles,
  •  test kits may be used, although there is no assurance of reliability as they have not
    been independently tested and verified.

Further information concerning the various resources available can be found in a jointly
prepared Industry Association Factsheet:

Drink spiking – factsheet for licensed venues plus industry resources

The Government is also taking the matter seriously, the House of Commons Home Affairs
Committee has launched a new inquiry to understand better the prevalence of spiking and
the effectiveness of the police response to it. Further details, including the timetable, can be
found here:

https://committees.parliament.uk/work/1696/spiking

It is obviously important that a clear message is sent out to reassure customers that the
authorities and operators of licensed premises are making every effort to provide a safe and
secure environment.

Please note that this document does not constitute legal advice but is the group’s
considered opinion of the matters contained within.

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