MPs have called on the Government to ensure that local licensing authorities are using their powers to regulate the night-time economy’s response to spiking.
In a report, Spiking, the Home Affairs Committee said ministers should work with local authorities “to develop anti-spiking strategies that make use of licensing powers to impose conditions on venues who do not take sufficient steps to protect and provide support to customers”.
The committee added: “Venues where spiking incidents are more likely to occur, such as pubs, clubs and festivals, must be safe spaces for their patrons. Local authorities and licensing authorities need to use their licensing powers to ensure that venues have adequate security and staff trained to identify spiking incidents. Places with a bad track record for spiking, and wider issues relating to violence against women and girls, should have improvement measures required as part of their licence renewal.”
The committee warned that spiking would remain an invisible crime unless more was done to improve awareness and support victims. The report also said:
- A lack of available data on spiking had made it difficult to get a clear picture of spiking’s true extent, and would remain a barrier to policing until data collection was improved.
- A culture of viewing victims as having had ‘one too many’ and a lack of co-ordinated support from venues, police and health services had meant many incidents were going unreported.
- At present, not enough was being done to support victims. The committee’s own survey conducted as part of its inquiry revealed that nine out of ten respondents said they did not receive support after a spiking incident. Fewer than a third reported the incident, and for those that did, no further action was taken in most cases.
- The creation of a new spiking criminal offence, currently under consideration by the Government, would help improve the response to incidents and effectiveness of prevention strategies.
- Police forces should also be required to carry out forensic testing quickly and to a quality that could be used in court cases. Communications need to improve so that victims know where they can receive help and to increase overall awareness.
- The focus must be on communicating to perpetrators that spiking is illegal and unacceptable. The Government should ensure that work is done to understand the motives of those carrying out spiking attacks to inform policy development.
- Current barriers to prosecuting spiking cases should be addressed “so that there is a clear deterrent”.
Chair of the Home Affairs Committee, Dame Diana Johnson said: “Spiking is an insidious act. Victims will often have little idea of what has happened, who spiked them, when it occurred or what has been put in their system. They are left with feelings of self-doubt and vulnerability. Yet, while the threat is well known, little has been done to prevent it from happening.
“There needs to be a concerted effort to stamp out spiking. Much more work needs to be done to improve understanding and awareness so that people are reassured that the help will be there should they need it. They need to know that they will be taken seriously and action taken.
“It isn’t good enough to tell people to put lids on their drinks or normalise taking a testing kit out with you. Everyone should have the right to go out and enjoy themselves without fear. The message needs to be sent to perpetrators that spiking is absolutely unacceptable and will be punished."