Spiking to be targeted in raft of new measures
Language in legislation is set to be updated to reflect the modern day crime
Spiking will be targeted by police and door staff in a raft of new measures unveiled today (Monday 18 December) by the Home Secretary James Cleverly as the festive party-going season gets into full swing.
The new package will see changes to the legislation, research into self-testing kits, more training for door staff and better education for young people, to raise awareness about the threat. There will also be coordinated police action to crackdown on spiking during key weeks of the year – an approach that has proved successful in tackling other crimes, such as knife crime.
The step up to tackle spiking comes as the government prepares to clarify under the Criminal Justice Bill, that without any doubt, spiking is illegal. It will be backed with separate guidance, set in law, to provide a clear, unequivocal definition of what spiking is. This will give victims renewed confidence to come forward, increase public awareness of the crime and enforce that perpetrators will face up to 10 years behind bars.
Alongside this, the government will set out practical measures aimed at improving understanding of the crime and delivering better support to victims.
- training hundreds more door staff to spot potential perpetrators and signs patrons have been victimised
- investing in research into spiking testing kits to help venues and police detect if someone’s drink has been spiked in real-time
- intensive operations run by the National Police Chiefs Council (NPCC) to tackle spiking during key weeks across the 43 police forces in England and Wales
- an online spiking tool to be rolled out to all police forces to make it easier to anonymously report it if people fear they have been a victim of the crime
- updated statutory guidance to include spiking (s182 Licensing Act 2003)
- a spiking guidance/advice toolkit for the public that contains a range of resources and signposting for anyone who is looking for information on spiking, what it is, who is affected, how to report it, how to support victims, and which criminal offences can be used to prosecute it
- supporting the higher education regulator, the Office for Students, as they take action to make sure universities and other higher education institutions to prevent and address sexual misconduct – this will follow its consultation on the issue, expected to report back in early 2024
Home Secretary, James Cleverly said:
"Tackling violence against women and girls is a personal priority for me and this government has shown time and again that we will do what is necessary to keep the public safe.
"Spiking is a perverse crime which can have a lasting impact on victims. Our comprehensive new measures are designed to help police and staff in bars, restaurants, pubs and other premises to protect victims and bring more offenders to justice."
Minister for Victims and Safeguarding, Laura Farris said:
"Spiking is an insidious and predatory act which is already illegal under existing laws.
"We are amending legislation to make the offence explicit and capture the modern day nature of the threat.
"Taken alongside new measures to improve the way the police respond to incidents, and better equipping venue staff to identify, respond and protect their customers, we are sending a clear message that perpetrators of this crime should expect to be caught and face justice."
ACC Samantha Millar, National Police Chiefs’ Council Strategic Programme Director, Violence Against Women and Girls, said:
"Spiking is a complex and challenging offence to investigate. Drugs pass through the system quickly and there is often limited evidence to identify offenders. The primary barriers to prosecution are the lack of an identifiable suspect and the ability to gather timely sufficient evidence to both charge and support a prosecution.
"People should be in no doubt that spiking is an abhorrent crime and the new clarity in the legislation should drive that message home.
"We still believe that there is underreporting of spiking and so our message remains to encourage victims to report to police. We have developed a new online reporting method so that victims are able to quickly tell us if they think they’ve been spiked, and we are also working up plans for all forces to heavily focus their efforts on spiking as part of their neighbourhood work. We also face challenges in identifying suspects promptly so we welcome focus in this area by partners including those who work in the night-time economy."
Dawn Dines, CEO and Founder of Stand Out Spiking Global, said:
"This is a monumental announcement. I have been campaigning on behalf of the victims of Spiking for over 20 years now. I am so relieved that finally some sort of justice will be available to the survivors of this cowardly offence.
"Spiking being clearly recognised in law and the language being modernised will give a clear message to the perpetrators that giving someone any drug – including alcohol without that person’s knowledge or consent – can result in a criminal conviction and not be tolerated.
"Spiking will finally not be an invisible crime."
Sharon Gaffka, Violence Against Women and Girls Activist and Drink Spiking Campaigner:
"As a campaigner for the past few years who has been dedicated to combating spiking, I applaud the government’s comprehensive approach unveiled today.
"While urging legislative updates has been my primary request for some time, the introduction and investment in preventive measures like venue staff training and drink testing kits is crucial. This commitment sends a clear message: spiking is an abhorrent crime that will be met with increased scrutiny and consequences.
"It’s a positive stride in the safeguarding of our communities during the festive season and beyond. I look forward to what further progress is made in 2024."
Tackling spiking is just one way the government is prioritising protecting women and girls from violence and abuse.
The Chancellor unveiled £12 million of new funding to tackle domestic abuse in the Autumn Statement last month including £2 million of funding for payments directly to victims to help them leave abusive relationships and rebuild their lives.
All police forces across England and Wales are now following a new approach for the investigation of rape, funded by the Home Office, with police referrals to the Crown Prosecution Service for adult rape offences already up more than 200% since 2019. Under the new model, police and prosecutors can access better support and 2,000 police investigators will be specially trained in sexual offences by April 2024.
Earlier this year, the government added violence against women and girls to the Strategic Policing Requirement – meaning it is now categorised as a national threat for forces to respond to, alongside other serious threats like terrorism.
In November 2023, the third phase of the government’s innovative ‘Enough’ communications campaign that looks to change long-term behaviours and attitudes towards violence against women and girls, launched a third phase of activity, which included partnering with over 30 UK universities in a bid to protect women and girls on university campuses.
The Home Office also funds “perpetrator intervention” projects which aim to stop domestic abusers and stalkers from repeatedly targeting victims and terrorising vulnerable people.
The government has also created new offences to criminalise acts such as non-fatal strangulation, stalking, cyberflashing and the sharing of intimate images without consent.