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Women and nightclubs accuse police of failing to act on reports of drink-spiking

·4-min read
<span>Photograph: PYMCA/UIG via Getty Images</span>
Photograph: PYMCA/UIG via Getty Images

Fresh concerns that the police are failing to take sexual violence against women seriously have been raised after figures appeared to show that a single force may have received reports of almost 500 incidents of drinks being spiked without a single conviction.

Meanwhile, nightclub chiefs accused police of not vigorously pursuing drink-spiking prosecutions, demonstrating that even when evidence was passed to officers, cases collapsed. Data from Avon and Somerset police suggests that it has recorded 486 drink-spiking incidents since 2016, which led to 27 arrests, but no successful prosecutions.

In 2018, when the highest number of incidents was recorded – 122 – not a single arrest appears to have been made. Another 84 incidents recorded last year during the pandemic suggest that the phenomenon had a broader reach than just nightclubs.

However, a spokesperson for the force said that the figures, released under a freedom of information request, may not be “necessarily accurate” owing to the manner in which the data was gathered as it was based on a key-word search.

The statistics accompany calls for a campaign to boycott UK nightlife venues until they are made safer following a number of accounts of women being spiked by injection on nights out.

The revelations prompted the home secretary, Priti Patel, to request an urgent update on the scale of the problem as claims were made that the issue had not been taken seriously enough. One woman who said her drink had been spiked in a pub said she had been “gaslighted” by officers.

Meanwhile, a 48-year-old female spiking victim said that if the government did not take action on “an epidemic” of violence against women this would be another sign that society does not care. The mother of two, who asked not to be named, believes her drink was spiked by a man at a friend’s private party in Devon of 150-200 people, which she attended with her husband two years ago.

Although she and her husband suspect they know who spiked her, they did not report the incident to the police because there was no CCTV or way of accounting for who was at the party.

“If it was in a club and you’ve got CCTV and you’ve got coherent bar staff and doormen then they could have pieced something together but this would have been impossible, so I didn’t go to the police. I felt really horrible afterwards,” she said.

Dawn Dines, founder of SOS (Stamp Out Spiking) UK, a social enterprise working to end the crime, and the creator of protective drinks lids StopTopps, said she was recently contacted by a 49-year-old woman who was made to feel “totally ashamed” when she went back to the bar where she had been spiked.

Dines added: “She said she thought it was just happening to younger people, that she didn’t think it would happen to her. Since then, quite a few ladies have come forward.”

Research conducted by SOS UK found that 98% of spiking victims did not go to the police. “When we asked why that was,” said Dines, “the victims said they didn’t believe in the process, didn’t feel they’d be believed by the police. They also said they felt ashamed and embarrassed and that’s the reason they didn’t come forward.”

Michael Kill, chief executive of the Night Time Industries Association, called for a proactive response by police into drink-spiking. “We are handing over details and it just seems to fall flat. The challenge is around trusting the police to carry this through, to get a conviction.

“While the police are very much focused on what clubs need to do more, there are stories of clubs that have passed on evidence, kept cups and things, but these have not gone any further.”

The new claims of police inaction come after figures on Thursday prompted renewed concern over the collapse in rape prosecutions in England and Wales. The statistics show that it will take nearly two decades for the government to reach its own target for turning this around at the current pace of change.

The National Police Chiefs Council responded to the latest claims by saying it took drink-spiking extremely seriously and was working with forces, the Home Office and the National Crime Agency on tackling the crime.

A spokesperson for Avon and Somerset police said: “We take drink-spiking reports extremely seriously and where there’s sufficient evidence, will always look to work with the CPS to prosecute. Adding alcohol or drugs to someone’s drink without their knowledge or permission is a serious offence.” It added that officers regularly carried out uniformed patrols of nightclubs and bars.

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