CW: spiking, needles, drugs
A meeting of South Tyneside Council’s children and adults safeguarding panel heard that, between October 9 2021 and February 19 2022, there were 373 reports of spiking across the Northumbria Police area. With almost 400 reports in a span of 232 days, the force area has been noted as a hotspot for needle spiking. This is a much higher figure than had been previously reported in the area. The area, which spans the cities of Newcastle, Gateshead and Sunderland, saw a significant number of reports of victims being spiked. In the South Tyneside area, there were 12 reports, with half of those reported in the same unnamed pub in the town centre of the coastal South Shields.
The meeting, held on Wednesday 22 June, noted the difficulties, depending on when people reported a spiking incident, to discover what happened via toxicology reports as the drug may have already left their system. The data suggests victim ages span from 18 to 57, with both men and women targeted.
With Newcastle known as one of the major cities in the UK for nightlife, vigilance and heightened policing is needed. Steven Carter, council senior public health advanced practitioner, said that the council has been engaging with organisations that represent young people- the group most likely to be spiked- and that this communication has been ‘really well received’.
Mr Carter also noted that the council was looking at ways of providing ‘anonymous opportunities for people to report those issues as well given the stigma and vulnerabilities that can sometimes be involved in the situation’.
Council and police chiefs added that they work with licensed premises and business owners to gain intelligence on potential issues. One recommendation from the council’s panel was to provide information cards on spiking and the dangers of alcohol at events in the region, such as at festivals or large club nights in the city centres.
In a Home Affairs Committee report released in April of this year, Northumbria Police’s force area was recognised as a hotspot for spiking. MPs reporting on the issue at the time said that ‘it is difficult to get a full picture of the situation around spiking, whether by drink, drug or needle, because many incidents are not reported, and many victims are brushed off as having had one drink too many’.
One suggestion made by MPs was to create a specific offence around spiking. Safeguarding minister Rachel Maclean said:
“Spiking is a cowardly act which can ruin lives, so I welcome this report and will carefully consider every recommendation.
“The Home Secretary has confirmed the Home Office is looking at how best to prepare a specific criminal offence and has asked the National Police Chiefs’ Council to urgently review the extent and scale of the issue.
“We have already reclassified GHB and introduced harsher sentences for anyone found with this spiking drug on them without cause. And are not afraid to legislate if it will help the police and courts better tackle the issue.”
Northumbria Police said they take spiking ‘very seriously’ and investigate all reported incidents.