In its response the Government welcomes the majority of the Committee’s recommendations and commits to working with police, local government and night-time industries to produce a ‘victim-first’ approach to combatting spiking. Their response to each conclusion and recommendation is set out in the attached report.
The report made a total of 12 recommendations, including the following:
The Home Office commented, in its response, that:
"The Government is grateful to the committee for their consideration of this important issue. We are committed to developing a “victim-first” approach, and we are clear that spiking is an issue that can only be tackled through effective partnership working. We welcome the breadth of the report, and the Committee’s efforts to highlight the wide range of stakeholders that are essential in bringing these awful acts to an end; many of whom we have already begun engaging with."
The 12 recommendations
1. We recommend that all staff working at music festivals, including vendors, be given compulsory safeguarding training, and this be a requirement that licensing authorities consider when approving events. This might be done along lines similar to training provided in voluntary schemes in other licensed premises, such as Ask Angela or the licensing security and vulnerability initiative (Licensing SAVI).
The Government agrees with the Committee that safeguarding training for staff is vital to ensure people attending events such as festivals can do so safely. The Government welcomes initiatives such as Ask Angela and LSAVI and would encourage local areas to consider how they can be used or replicated where necessary.
2. We call on the Home Office to increase education and awareness about spiking and welcome its considering whether a specific new offence of spiking is required. We urge the Home Office, however, to focus its efforts first on improving reporting of the crime of spiking and on gathering information about the reasons for and outcomes of such reports. We invite the Home Office to set out steps it will take to improve data on the prevalence, scale and dangers of spiking
The Government recognises that spiking is a largely under-reported crime, and that every report of needle or drink spiking is different and, consequently, there is no ‘one size fits all’, or default, crime classification solution. The Government, alongside law enforcement, have taken a number of steps to improve both the quantity and quality of data on these incidents.
3. The Home Office should give the Committee a written update six months from the date of publication of this Report on progress towards creating a separate criminal offence of spiking.
The Government is already committed to updating Parliament on whether it intends to introduce a specific criminal offence for spiking within six months of the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act receiving Royal Assent.
4. As part of its national communications campaign to say “Enough” to violence against women and girls, the Government should engage with the night-time industry, the education sector, and the health sector to produce a national anti-spiking communications campaign. The awareness raising campaign should:
i) send a clear message that there is no acceptable defence for spiking, whether done for fun or malicious intent; that it can have devastating consequences for victims; and that spiking is a crime punishable by up to 10 years in prison;
ii) encourage victims and venues to report incidents to the police, with the promise that all reports will be investigated; and
iii) communicate immediate and longer-term sources of support for spiking victims, including testing.
The Government agrees with this recommendation and has begun conversations with communications leads from the “Enough” campaign looking into how spiking can be integrated into the wider campaign.
5. As part of its wider VAWG strategy, the Government should consider a support package for night-time industries to boost security measures including the recruitment and training of additional door security staff, particularly female staff.
The Government recognises the position of the night time industry and, alongside the Security Industry Authority (SIA), has been monitoring reports of shortages within the industry since Autumn 2021, meeting with industry figures including Michael Kill of the Night Time Industry Authority.
6. Within three months the Government should:
i) Collect data on local licensing authorities’ use of their powers to impose conditions or revoke premises licenses, where venues do not take sufficient measures to protect and provide support to customers in spiking incidents;
ii) Work with local authorities to develop an anti-spiking strategy which encourages local licensing authorities to make better use of these powers; and
iii) As part of this, review guidance issued under section 182 of the Licensing Act 2003 with a view to requiring licensing authorities to consider the prevalence, prevention and reporting of sexual harassment and misconduct and gender-based violence in statements of local licensing policy.
The Government continues to work with local areas to ensure that everyone is safe and secure in the night time economy. Our work to tackle violence against women and girls is continuing to drive momentum to improve the response to issues such as spiking and more widely. Over 2021–22, the Government invested £25m in round 3 of the Safer Streets Fund (SSF), which focused on reducing VAWG in public and improving feelings of safety for all, and £5m in the Safety of Women at Night (SWaN) fund. The £75m round 4 of the SSF also includes a focus on tackling VAWG in public spaces, as well as anti-social behaviour and neighbourhood crime. We plan to announce successful bidders for SSF Round 4 as soon as possible.
7. The Government should evaluate the efficacy of different anti-spiking partnership initiatives and develop a national strategy which promotes best practice and requires all police forces and local authorities to publish their chosen approach.
The Government recognises the value of the various anti-spiking initiatives that have taken place across the country and is grateful to the various police forces, local authorities and private businesses that are taking steps to safeguard against spiking.
8. The Home Office, in partnership with key stakeholders, should conduct a national communications campaign to raise awareness of how to act when people suspect they have been spiked. This campaign should emphasise the importance of individuals and venues reporting incidents or concerns to the police. An option to report spiking incidents anonymously should also be included, possibly via Crime Stoppers. Increased data from increased reporting of incidents would help the police to profile offenders and identify the causes of offending.
The Government agrees with this recommendation and is working closely with policing stakeholders to promote key messages around spiking. The Enough campaign have created and disseminated guidance for hospitality staff on how to respond to an instance of violence against women and girls in their venue, including spiking. This communication encourages individuals to report incidents to the police.
9. To ensure adequate, timely provision of forensic sampling of a standard sufficient to be admissible as evidence in court, the Government should introduce a duty on all police forces to provide those who report any spiking incident with the rapid testing service introduced in response to the outbreak of needle spiking.
As the Committee notes, law enforcement, in partnership with forensic provider Eurofins, established an accredited rapid urine testing service in response to the outbreak of needle spiking in Autumn 2021. This service will be in place throughout 2022, with the intention of developing a better service in 2023.
10. The Home Office should require commercially available drug-testing products to carry warnings about their limitations; expedite its planned scientific review of the relative merits of the various spiking testing pilots being run by the police, universities and hospitals and report back to the Committee in three months’ time; and provide support to allow wider adoption of the best schemes across the country once the review is completed.
The Government recognises the use of spiking test kits in various parts of the country, but we remain clear that there is no single test kit that reports to cover the number of drugs that have been identified as potential candidates for spiking. We therefore feel that an evaluation of pilots which only utilise non-lab-based test kits could provide potential victims with a false sense of security given the lack of any industry certification or validation to account for the efficacy of such test kits. We therefore urge anyone who suspect that they or someone around them have been spiked to contact the police in order to collect a sample for forensic analysis through an accredited testing capability, such as that established by law enforcement and forensic provider Eurofins. To date, this remains the only method which will provide certainty in sample analysis. We are currently aware of efforts within law enforcement to consider how local toxicology services can assist our response to spiking incidents. The results from this will form part of the statutory review of spiking. We are also aware of a limited evaluation being carried out over summer on a urine test kit utilised in some police forces. The project is likely to assess the kit’s efficacy in detecting a number of substances which have been identified as part of the Eurofins rapid testing capability.
11. The Home Office should commission academic research into the motivations and profile of spikers, to feed into a national strategy for preventing, detecting and prosecuting spiking offences.
The Government agrees with the Committee’s assessment that the motivations of spiking offenders remain unclear, particularly around the newly identified incidences of needle spiking, and that the lack of understanding limits our ability to effectively tackle spiking through targeted interventions. We will therefore consider options for research into the motivations of offenders.
12. To increase the deterrent effect of increased prosecutions, Government should devise a strategy to address each of the factors that inhibit prosecution from lack of reporting through to failure to collect forensic evidence.
The Government recognises that there a number of factors which inhibit our ability to successfully target and prosecute individuals who commit spiking offences, not least of all the under-reporting discussed in the response to recommendation 2.