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Why is spiking an issue?

It is estimated that over 97% of spiking incidents are not reported. In 2023, figures obtained by the BBC suggest that while there were nearly 5,000 reports of spiking-related incidents to forces in 2021/22, there were just 40 convictions in four years. This indicates a significant gap in the visibility of this issue and a potential lack of faith in the current legal framework’s ability to address it.

A third of women and one in five men have been spiked or know someone who has. The NPCC (National Police Chiefs’ Council) says this figure is likely higher.

  • Spiking can have lasting repercussions on victims’ lives
    • “I have had several anxiety attacks since this night and have now had to start Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, as well as Sertraline medication. I feel violated to this day and have nightmares most nights.”
    • “It took 30 years before I could even talk about it to my husband”.
    • “I was 16. I told no-one. I am now 67. The humiliation never goes away”

Existing Legal Framework:

While it is true that the existing legal framework could theoretically be applied to spiking cases, the current laws—the Sexual Offences Act 2003 and the Offences Against the Person Act 1861—do not explicitly address this issue

 

Applicable to both drink and needle spiking:

 

Section, Act​

 

Description Maximum penalty
Section 18​ – Offences against the Person Act 1861

 

Wounding with intent to do grievous bodily harm Life imprisonment
Section 20​ – Offences against the Person Act 1861

 

Unlawfully or maliciously wounding, or inflicting any grievous bodily harm​ 5 years’ imprisonment
Section 23​ – Offences against the Person Act 1861

 

Maliciously administering etc. poison etc. so as to endanger life or inflict grievous bodily harm 10 years’ imprisonment
Section 24​ – Offences against the Person Act 1861

 

Maliciously administering etc. poison etc. with intent to injure, aggrieve, or annoy that person 5 years’ imprisonment
Section 47 ​- Offences against the Person Act 1861

 

Assault occasioning bodily harm 5 years’ imprisonment
Section 61 ​- Sexual Offences Act 2003 Administering etc., a substance with intent to engage in a non-consensual sexual activity If convicted in a magistrates’ court, 6 months’ imprisonment or a fine

If convicted in a Crown Court, 10 years’  imprisonment

Section 39​ – Criminal Justice Act 1988 Common assault and battery 6 months’ imprisonment, a fine or both

 

Why Change the Law?

Relying on vague laws from the Victorian era cannot be the proper response to spiking. 

  • Lack of Specificity and Nuance: The existing legal framework fails to acknowledge the nuanced nature of spiking incidents. The Sexual Offences Act 2003 and the Offences Against the Person Act 1861, while theoretically applicable, lack specificity to address the complexities of spiking, ranging from intent to overpower for sexual activity to intent to endanger life. This results in ambiguity and potential hurdles in effectively prosecuting perpetrators.
  • Unreported Incidents: The staggering statistic that over 97% of spiking incidents go unreported signals a profound lack of confidence in the legal provisions’ ability to deliver justice. This underlines the need for a dedicated offence that resonates with victims and encourages them to come forward without reservations.
  • Complex Burden of Proof: The existing laws necessitate proving specific intent, which may be challenging in spiking cases where motives can vary. This adds a layer of complexity in prosecution, potentially leading to legal gaps where offenders escape accountability.
  • Data Collection and Trend Identification: The absence of a distinct spiking offence obstructs efficient data collection and trend identification. This compromises law enforcement’s ability to comprehend the extent of the issue, target resources appropriately, and develop strategies for prevention. (According to National Police Chiefs Council) 

 

What do we do?

The alarming truth cannot be ignored: the current legal framework fails to protect victims from the increasing trend of spiking incidents. With unreported cases rampant, burdensome proof requirements, and a glaring data deficit, the call for a dedicated spiking offence grows louder. We need a dedicated law against spiking, plain and simple. It’s about justice, deterring culprits, and protecting everyone’s safety. The choice is now crystal: act fast or let this cycle of harm continue. We campaign publicly and in the media for change, calling on our government to introduce a specific offence.

Right to Equality is supporting the egalitarian’s Spiking Out, Justice In campaign.

The egalitarian has launched the Spike Report, a community-led spiking database to help keep you and your friends safe! This confidential database allows for your own submissions, review of others’ submissions, and visibility of venue replies in some instances. You can search by city or venue to see submissions. The site also contains information on helpful reseources.

You can find their supportive sources here.

The Surveys

Feedback from these surveys will help to inform venues on how to protect against spiking and support those who have been spiked. This data can also be used to show the deep need for spiking to be a specific criminal offence! Check out the forms here, and please fill them out if you’re able.

Everyone: https://forms.gle/xWs1Z8uvj3zcRscK7

Hospitality specific-data: https://forms.gle/sGvwkAooHq3fuxYLA

 

Weren’t Changes Already Introduced? 

Yes, spiking will be targeted by police and door staff in a raft of new measures unveiled on 18 December 2023 by the Home Secretary James Cleverly. However, the Guardian notes that the new changes are expected to fall short of a specific new offence. 

The new package will see changes to the legislation, research into self-testing kits, more training for door staff and better education for young people, to raise awareness about the threat. There will also be coordinated police action to crackdown on spiking during key weeks of the year – an approach that has proved successful in tackling other crimes, such as knife crime.

The step up to tackle spiking comes as the government prepares to clarify under the Criminal Justice Bill, that without any doubt, spiking is illegal. It will be backed with separate guidance, set in law, to provide a clear, unequivocal definition of what spiking is. This will give victims renewed confidence to come forward, increase public awareness of the crime and enforce that perpetrators will face up to 10 years behind bars.

Alongside this, the government will set out practical measures aimed at improving understanding of the crime and delivering better support to victims. 

This includes: 

  • training hundreds more door staff to spot potential perpetrators and signs patrons have been victimised
  • investing in research into spiking testing kits to help venues and police detect if someone’s drink has been spiked in real-time
  • intensive operations run by the National Police Chiefs Council (NPCC) to tackle spiking during key weeks across the 43 police forces in England and Wales
  • an online spiking tool to be rolled out to all police forces to make it easier to anonymously report it if people fear they have been a victim of the crime
  • updated statutory guidance to include spiking (s182 Licensing Act 2003)
  • a spiking guidance/advice toolkit for the public that contains a range of resources and signposting for anyone who is looking for information on spiking, what it is, who is affected, how to report it, how to support victims, and which criminal offences can be used to prosecute it
  • supporting the higher education regulator, the Office for Students, as they take action to make sure universities and other higher education institutions to prevent and address sexual misconduct – this will follow its consultation on the issue, expected to report back in early 2024

See the Announcement Here.

We are pleased to see the announcement but continue to call for a specific criminal offence as we believe this will best address the ongoing issue.

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