SPIKING PEOPLE’S DRINKS: ‘Take action against drink spikers rather than punish venues’

Reports of spiking – including with needles – have surfaced on social media

Spiking: A number of reports have surfaced on social media in the past week.

Spiking: A number of reports have surfaced on social media in the past week.

By Bill Heaney

Health secretary Humza Yousaf has said the focus should be on “taking action” against men who spike women’s drinks, as opposed to punishing venues.

Reports of a spate of spiking incidents against women, some involving the use of needles, have spread through social media in the past week, prompting police investigations across the UK.

Humza Yousaf, pictured right, who was justice secretary earlier this year, said police were taking the incidents “incredibly, incredibly seriously”, but said he would not like to see venues punished.

“My view, having discussed this issue as a government, is that the night-time industry are very, very concerned and are doing everything they possibly can,” he told BBC Scotland’s Sunday Show.

“I don’t think we want to beat the night-time industry over the head because of this issue.

“It is the perpetrators – the men, because let’s be honest it is men perpetrating this – that we need to get through to and if necessary take action against.

“We will continue to examine the law and enforcement to make sure it is robust to deal with this.”

He added: “I was deeply concerned to read those reports.”

When asked what action the government can take to tackle the problem, Yousaf said: “We’re looking at the law at the moment to see if it’s absolutely robust.

“But I know from the justice secretary’s (Keith Brown) conversations with Police Scotland they are taking it incredibly, incredibly seriously and doing whatever is necessary.”

According to a report by the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC), almost 200 spiking incidents were recorded in the past two months, according to data from 40 police forces across the country.

A Police Scotland spokesperson said: “We are aware of posts circulating on social media about spiking incidents involving injections in Scotland.

“Officers are carrying out inquiries, and a small number of reports from the Edinburgh, Dundee and Glasgow areas are being investigated. These do not appear to be linked.

“We take all reports seriously and we would encourage anyone who believes they have been a victim of spiking in any form to contact Police via 101.”

Meanwhile, nightclubs and bars are being urged to demonstrate action to tackle the “crisis” of spiking incidents.

A campaign, Girls Night In, has gained strong support across the UK following a series of reports of spiking, which are being probed by police.  It includes multiple cases of people being physically spiked by a needle.

The campaign called for a one-day boycott of nightclubs and bars on October 28 in protest at safety concerns not being taken seriously.

This week, several venues including in Glasgow, Edinburgh and Dundee, have announced new measures aimed at tackling the issue.

Body checks upon entry, enhanced staff training, and poster campaigns outlining what people can do to seek help, are amongst steps being taken.

Paige Gilbride, part of the Girls Night In campaign, welcomed the measures being implemented, but highlighted the need to see action being taken.

Speaking to STV News, Paige said she got involved in the campaign after it was highlighted on social media, with people speaking out about their own experiences of being spiked in venues

She explained that the protest is aimed at highlighting the severity of the situation.

“The turnaround has been good, but still it’s not enough just to kind of sit there and say they’re going to do these things, we need to see action, we need to see them actually doing it in place,” she said.

“With this protest on Thursday 28, us all standing together, it really will hit home and meet with these nightclubs that we’re not tolerating this and also it will show the people doing it that we don’t tolerate it.

“We shouldn’t think about a night out and think, ‘oh, my pre-drinks, going to the club, and then potentially getting spiked. It just shouldn’t be the case.

“We’ve been through a pandemic, we’ve been kind of pushed away out of nightclubs, and now again, we’re again feeling that kind of fear and that anger against it.”

Paige indicated that higher penalties should be implemented for perpetrators of spiking, as well as more preventative measures being introduced by the nightclub industry.

“This is just a huge crisis right now and it’s with faceless criminals,” she explained.

“So, it’s a message to Parliament to implement higher penalties for these crimes and more preventative measures in the nightclub industry.

“That’s really it, it’s just higher measures and really getting these criminals brought to justice for what they’re doing because it’s a horrible thing to happen to vulnerable girls and everyone else.”

She added: “It shouldn’t be happening in this day and age.”

Assistant chief constable Judi Heaton said that Police Scotland continues to investigate a “very small number of reports” across the country of people having been spiked either with a needle or in their drink.

Heaton pledged that anyone who reports having their drink spiked or who has been assaulted will be taken seriously.

“We are not always able to determine the reasons why a perpetrator carries out an assault in this way, and it may not always be for a sexual purpose,” she said.

“It can put people at significant risk of harm. We will take every report extremely seriously and investigate robustly.

“Women, and men, should be able to go out for a night out without fear of being spiked. We are working with a range of partners, locally and nationally to ensure pubs and clubs are safe spaces for all. This includes working with licensees.

“Anyone who reports having their drink spiked or has been assaulted by whatever means, will be taken seriously.

“We would encourage anyone who believes they have had their drink spiked or been assaulted in this way to contact Police Scotland on 101 or in an emergency 999.”

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