If Spiking Is An Epidemic, Why Is It Still Not A Specific Criminal Offence In The UK?
Spiking – defined as when someone puts alcohol or drugs into another person’s drink or their body without their knowledge and/or consent – has become a hot topic over the past year. Helena Conibear, CEO of the Alcohol Education Trust says the issue has reached “epidemic” levels. “This is happening to one in 10 people, and it can happen to anyone in a number of different settings,” she says. “It’s so prevalent because the convictions are so low.” She demands that the UK government revisit current legislation, which she claims, “isn’t working”.
According to the National Police Chiefs’ Council, almost 5,000 cases of needle and drink spiking incidents were reported to police in England and Wales in the 12 months to September 2022. Although spiking is something we tend to think as happening predominantly to women, it’s also prevalent among the LGBTQIA+ community. In 2020, Reynhard Sinaga – described as ‘Britain’s most prolific rapist’ – was jailed for 136 rapes against dozens of young men in Manchester, drugging his victims and attacking them after they passed out. Spiking happens at bars, nightclubs and festivals, but also at house parties, where 35% of incidents take place. It is also woefully underreported, particularly among heterosexual men who fear the stigma that comes with it. And yet in January, the UK government said there was no need to make spiking a specific criminal offence, rejecting long-standing calls from campaigners. Why?
As it stands, you can be punished for crimes that surround spiking, such as rape and robbery, which the government says is sufficient. There is also the Offences Against The Person Act 1861, which makes it an offence to administer a substance to a person with the intention to injure, aggrieve or annoy them, which does cover spiking. So, some legislation exists. However, “the question is: why hasn’t it been used enough?” asks David Corker, a partner at London law firm Corker Binning. “Campaigners don’t like [the existing legislation] because it rarely leads to prosecutions.”
But it’s not just the law that needs to change. Improved training and education is also required in how to effectively and sensitively handle spiking and support its victims. Conibear adds that: “Spiking is usually used to aid a sexual assault or a robbery, but most of the time it doesn’t end with that. Offenders need to know that they face prosecution based on the action itself, not just the intention. At the moment, there is no real deterrent.”
5 Need-To-Know Resources For Help And Support
- Stamp Out Spiking – a not-for-profit company that raises awareness of the dangers of spiking and offers practical solutions to keep you and your friends safe.
- Victim Support – an independent charity that supports victims of crime and traumatic incidents in England and Wales.
- Talk To Frank – an organisation dedicated to providing honest information and support about drugs, their effects, and the law.
- Nightline – a student-run listening and information service, open at night.
- Rape Crisis – support and services for women and girls who have experienced sexual abuse, violence or rape.
Ella Alexander is a digital contributing editor at Harper’s Bazaar UK and has written for Glamour UK, Italy Segreta and Mr And Mrs Smith