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Reports of spiking doubled in 2021, MPs told

MPs heard that victims are being left “humiliated” and “embarrassed” by spiking attacks, with little faith in reporting incidents to police.

Reports of drink spiking have doubled to 1,400 over the past year, but prosecutions remain “extraordinarily low”, MPs were told today.

Speaking before a Home Affairs Committee inquiry into spiking attacks, Helena Conibear, CEO of the Alcohol Education Trust said that spiking can occur “in any drink, in pretty much any location, and can happen to any person”, with YouGov polling showing that 11 per cent of women and 6 per cent of men have experienced spiking.

She added that prosecution is “extremely difficult” because all evidence of spiking disappears within 24 to 48 hours of the attack.

The inquiry follows a deluge of reports about spiking in the UK, with incidents involving drugs slipped into drinks or administered via injection appearing to increase over the past year.

In October 2021, the spate of reports led to a nationwide boycott of clubs dubbed the ‘Girls Night In’.

As part of the evidence session, MPs heard from three victims of spiking, who described the terrifying experience of losing their memory and agency after being spiked on nights out.

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Victims Zara Owen, Hannah Stratton and Alexi Skitinis called for a reform to the way attacks are reported, proposing an anonymous online system to make reporting incidents easier.

All three added that they were confused by the motives of “sadistic” perpetrators, believing most are spiking people “for fun”.

Stratton also called for an end to placing the onus on victims to protect themselves while on nights out, saying there needs to be “a much greater understanding of why perpetrators are doing it”.

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A second panel of experts laid bare the shocking prevalence of spiking reports, with Conibear noting that data from 23 police forces shows a doubling of reports over the past year, to 1,400 incidents.

She added that reporting levels remain low, with one survey showing that only around 8 per cent of victims are coming forward to police – meaning the level of spiking is likely much higher than reporting data shows.

Evidence suggests that spiking is happening in all manner of locations and to every demographic, Conibear said, though the highest prevalence (14 per cent) is in the 24-49 age group.

Dawn Dines of anti-spiking campaign group Stamp Out Spiking said there was a lack of awareness among the public, police and even emergency responders around how spiking happens and how best to respond to it.

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This has led to victims feeling “humiliated and embarrassed”, fearing that “people won’t believe them” when they share their stories, Dines said.

The spate of attacks is being driven by the fact that “perpetrators know they can get away with it”, Conibear told the committee. 

Dines, along with other panelists, said greater public and police awareness of spiking, more comprehensive data on drink spiking attacks and a “focus on the consequences of being a spiker” will all be needed to tackle the epidemic of attacks and give victims greater confidence in their ability to report incidents.

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Support The Big Issue Winter Appeal

Big Issue vendors can’t work from home and with severe weather warnings on the cards, they face a very tough and uncertain Winter period ahead.

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