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Brian Coney
18 December 2023, 12:52

UK drink spiking laws to be "modernised" amid calls for introduction of specific offence

The NTIA are among campaigners who have criticised its failure to make spiking a specific offence

UK drink spiking laws to be modernised amid calls for more focus on practical measures

The UK's drink spiking laws are set to be updated, though experts and campaigners are calling for the introduction of a specific offence relating to the act.

According to a report by Sky News, the Home Office has said it will amend the Criminal Justice Bill and update the Offences Against The Person Act 1861 to make clear that spiking - putting drugs into another person's drink or directly into their body without their knowledge or consent - is illegal.

More training for door staff and funding for testing kits are among a package of measures announced to crack down on the crime, with the Home Office saying the law is set to "be modernised".

The BBC reports the following measures as part of the plan:

  • Training hundreds more door staff to stop potential perpetrators and signs someone may have been spiked
  • Investing in research into testing kits to detect if someone's drink has been spiked
  • Intensive operations by the National Police Chiefs' Council (NPCC) across England and Wales, targeting key weeks when spiking tends to be prevalent
  • An online tool to be rolled out to all police forces to make it easier for people to report spiking anonymously

While the plans have been generally welcomed by campaigners, the Night Time Industries Association (NTIA) are among those who have expressed disappointment over the failure to make spiking a specific offence. 

In a statement, NTIA CEO Michael Kill remarked that the omission falls significantly short of expectations. "Drink spiking is a serious and prevalent issue that poses a threat to the safety and well-being of individuals within our community. The government's failure to designate spiking as a distinct crime is disheartening and does not reflect the need to address this growing concern."

"To effectively combat drink spiking, we need a comprehensive and dedicated approach. The absence of a specific crime category undermines our ability to gather accurate data and develop targeted strategies to tackle this menace."

Kill went on to urge the UK government to reconsider its stance and work alongside industry stakeholders to ensure that adequate measures are in place to protect the public from the detrimental effects of spiking.

A Guardian report on the news quotes the concerns of Prof Nicole Westmarland, a criminologist who has advised police, universities and the government on spiking. “Offences aren’t leading to prosecutions and convictions and that’s not because of the law, it’s because of other things," said Westmarland. “So yes, a new law might help somewhat, but it’s not going to make any difference unless all of the other things are addressed.”

Nearly 5,000 spiking incidents were reported to police in England and Wales in the 12 months since September 2022, according to statistics by the National Police Chiefs’ Council. The latest Ministry of Justice data suggests the conviction rate is very low.