- Data and prevalence: Deputy Chief Constable Jason Harwin explained the numbers of drink spiking
cases had risen rapidly every year since 2016 and were not often flagged in records, if this had then led
to a more serious secondary crime, e.g., rape. Since September there had now emerged cases of needle
spiking. There had been 1382 cases from September 2021 to this week across the UK and 14 secondary
offences had occurred from these needle spiking offences. There was a considerable impact on victims of
such crimes and there remained challenges around reporting.
- UK problem: DCC Harwin explained the National Crime Agency (NCA) had discovered spiking was not a
problem anywhere else in the world, except for a short rise in spiking crimes in Australia over Christmas.
UK police colleagues were working with their Australian counterparts to understand the motives there and
to see if there were any connections to the UK.
- Confidence in reporting: Joy Allen said if there was to be better intelligence and data, victims had to be
confident in reporting. It was a concern only 10% of spiking victims were reporting the crime. Better
reporting would help inform data to understand trends about where the problems were and where
resources should be allocated.
- Needle spiking as a new phenomenon: DCC Harwin said the police were receiving an increased
volume of calls about spiking, universities were raising it through their student unions, all police forces
had highlighted needle spiking as an emerging issue and there was growing concern about the fear of
spiking crime on social media. This was why police activity had increased in the last few months to
understand the motives and the police were creating working groups within different forces to tackle
- Spiking incidents in Durham: Ms Allen said in Durham between October and December 2021 there had
been 82 spiking incidences and of those 25 were found to have involved needle spiking, which
demonstrated the rising trend of this new crime in a small period.
- Crime Code for needle spiking: DCC Harwin said that it would be easier to identify trends if spiking was
flagged in crime reports and it would also help to identify spiking crimes nationally more quickly as it
would demonstrate connections around the same or similar types of venues, locations, and possible
- Successful spiking prosecutions: DCC Harwin said there were some ongoing investigations but there
had not yet been a successful prosecution of needle or drink spiking as a standalone crime, without the
spiking being linked to sexual assault or robbery. There was not enough people being prosecuted for
spiking crimes and this was a problem and law enforcement had to do more to improve its response, as
well do more in terms of offender related work and changing behaviour in making sure people aware that
spiking was a serious offence.
- Cases that have made it to court: DCC Harwin explained there was a toxicology window of opportunity
in getting evidence from when the crime was committed to when it was reported, that had an impact on
the success of an investigation. In some cases, it was because it had been a repeated offender but also
digital work in linking offenders to locations and victims, combined with stronger witnesses providing
evidence had helped advance the case to court. Similarly, the locations of spiking crimes also had an
impact on evidence gathering and identifying potential suspects to prosecute. Incidents were often late at
night in crowded, busy venues. It was therefore necessary to work with industry to make venues hostile
places for potential offenders and to encourage people to report suspicions.
- Flagging spiking on police systems: DCC Harwin supported having a specific offence for spiking but in
the interim if spiking offences were flagged in the systems nationally, through regional crime units, it
would help for information gathering purposes.
- Spiking for ‘kicks’: DCC Harwin said the NCA’s behavioural scientists were looking at spiking crime
motivations to understand the rising numbers. Their early investigations had found there were offenders
who saw spiking as something to do for ‘fun’ and then more extreme offenders who were deliberately
targeting mainly female victims for control purposes. Interventions against offenders included targeted
campaigns to encourage behaviour change, so those who saw spiking as a ‘fun’ thing to do, understood
its impact whilst separately using law enforcement tactics for offenders who were more extreme in their
- Forensic investigation: Dean Ames said victims in a home environment did not report spiking crimes.
Samples for forensic testing had all come from the night-time economy. Drugs could be detected many
days after spiking and awareness of this could help encourage victims to report the crime to police.
- Crimestoppers: Ms Allen said people should be encouraged to report spiking offenders they knew about,
even anonymously and Crimestoppers’ youth service, named Fearless, should be encouraged as a
- Nightclubs: DCC Harwin said that partnership initiatives were underway and proactive information
sharing methods were being developed.
- Secondary cases: DCC Harwin said some victims considered the secondary offence as more serious
than the original spiking offence and if spiking had occurred without a secondary offence, some victims
had a dilemma as to whether they were spiked or not. When sexual assaults were the secondary offence,
the police had well established protocols in terms of investigation and support for the victim, which didn’t
yet exist for spiking.
- Organisation of spiking crimes: DCC Harwin said it was not yet clear whether spiking was organised by
one or more people or whether it was a random activity. It seemed likely that some level of organisation
was needed to obtain the illicit substances utilised. Work was underway with NCA to see if there were
connections regionally, locally, or nationally or whether offenders were being encouraged online on the
dark web or via open sources.
- Alcohol and secondary crimes. Mr Ames said in most cases of sexual secondary offenses, forensics
had found alcohol rather than drugs in the system of the victims. Drug spiking was found no more than
10% of the time.
- Coordination and best practice: Ms Allen said partnerships working in PCCs was vital. In West Mercia
£9000 had been spent to train bar staff to prevent spiking incidences. Also, university alcohol services,
students’ unions, local authorities, and police working together and sharing good practice around
prevention and reporting was important. Mr Ames said a National Forensics Strategy had been developed
with police forces in dealing with spiking crimes which explained forensic opportunities and collecting
urine samples quickly to aid investigation.
- Gold Group: DCC Harwin explained that when the needle spiking cases started rising, this triggered the
national Gold Group which coordinated law enforcement nationally and internationally alongside
stakeholders such as the Home Office. This then fed into a national tactical working group of police
forces around sharing good practice. However, a long-term spiking strategy, linked to work helping
women and girls was necessary.
- Toxicology: Mr Ames explained the optimum time to obtain a viable forensic sample of urine was up to
12 hours after an incident. However, 24 hours still offered an opportunity to obtain evidence but because
drugs metabolised and left the body at different rates, evidence could be detected up to 7 days after an
- Responsibility to obtain samples: Mr Ames said that a chain of accountability was needed for taking a
sample, but ideally the sample should be taken by the police using evidence kits as quickly as possible.
- Drug testing kits for venues: Mr Ames explained when needle spiking incidents were first being
reported, capacity was a problem for the police, so testing kits had been supplied to venues. However, it
was difficult to know if these kits were still reliable and could test for potentially 1600 varieties of drugs.
Instead, a rapid testing service had been developed by the Met police and forensic service, where urine
samples could be tested reliably, and this should now be used in all cases and to validate any results
obtained from venue testing kits.
- Forensic capacity: Mr Ames explained there was a shortage of forensic expertise in the UK. However,
the new rapid testing service could provide results for spiking victims in 2-3 weeks, rather than the 6
months previously needed for a full toxicology report and these results would be accepted in court. DCC
Harwin said there was a cost implication for forces, but it was cheaper than full toxicology testing.
- Hair samples: Mr Ames said hair samples were used as a last resort for evidence gathering as analysis
was time consuming and costly and it took 4-5 weeks for drugs to enter the root of the hair.
- Types of drugs detected in testing: Mr Ames explained 100 samples had been analysed. Half did not
contain drugs and the other half included drugs such as paracetamol, antihistamines as well as medicinal
or therapeutic drugs. A complex range of drugs were detected including class A, and the full process
involved determining drugs taken willingly by the victims, medical intervention-based drugs and then
finally working out what the spiked drug was.
- Grievous Bodily Harm (GBL): DCC Harwin said GBL was currently a class C but was being reclassified
to a class B. However, that was taking time and it would be helpful if this reclassification was speeded
up, especially for sentencing purposes.
- A&E: DCC Harwin recommended long term that A&E staff should be mandated to report spiking to the
police, if they were treating suspected victims.