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Drink ‘spiking’ to be made a specific criminal offence, says Home Secretary

Drink and needle ‘spiking’ will be made a specific criminal offence following an alarming rise in offences, it has been revealed.

Home Secretary Priti Patel said “drinks being laced with drugs” and “needle attacks” are an “appalling trend” that needs to be criminalised.

“I have asked my officials… to look into what we know thus far with National Police Chiefs Council, how we can pursue offenders, but also how we can – and you’ll know that there are already a list of offences in terms of drugs that can be applied – but how we can prepare a specific criminal offence to target spiking directly”, she told the Home Affairs Committee this week.

But she warned the public not to “expect an announcement” as there is work to be done to understand the “genesis, the details, the evidential base, and prevalence”.

Spiking is currently covered under the Offences Against the Persons Act 1861 and the Sexual Offences Act 2003, which together cover noxious substances and spiking for sexual gratification. But it is hard to prosecute where it is not clear or it cannot be proven what the purpose of spiking was or where the drug used cannot be identified.

Making spiking a specific criminal offence would allow the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) to prosecute offenders when there is no evidence of another crime, such as sexual assault.

It would also allow authorities to record incidents more accurately.

Commenting on the proposals, Richard Graham, MP for Gloucester and supporter of the new laws, said: “Because spiking itself is not a specific crime, no one can be arrested simply for the act of spiking itself, nor is there enough data on spiking for adequate analysis and response.”

The proposals also include reclassifying GHB, a commonly used “date rape drug”. The drug was reclassified from Class C to Class B in March last year, meaning the maximum penalty for possession increased from two years in jail to five. But there are concerns that the current classification does not deter criminals.

According to the latest statistics, more than 1,300 reports of needle spiking were reported to police in just the last six months, compared to 1,903 incidents reported in the whole of 2019 – suggesting an alarming rise in offences.

Almost 200 cases of drink spiking incidents, meanwhile, were reported to police forces across the UK in September and October 2021.

Have you been accused of committing a crime? We help clients through all stages of the criminal justice process. For advice and representation, get in touch with our expert team today.

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