A report has revealed that at least 167 cases of suspected drink spiking were reported by Durham University students to JCRs at the beginning of this term. These cases are not confirmed.
The study conducted by St Chad’s College’s JCR Vice President, Joe Anson, compiled reports by students to their JCRs through freps and welfare teams, from Freshers Week, the week before it, and the weekend after.
The highest number of suspected incidents were reported to have occurred at Jimmy Allen’s; a total of 38 cases were recorded.
Jimmy Allen’s stressed to Palatinate that police are only currently investigating one suspected case at the venue and that the nightclub is providing CCTV to aid investigations. “Even one spiking is more than we as a business are willing to accept and not act upon”, they stated.
In response to the issue, the nightclub said they will be increasing the number of people being searched on entry, and body cameras will now be worn by management and a number of bar staff. Staff at Jimmy Allen’s will also now be subject to drug searches at random at the beginning of and during shifts.
The club’s owners confirmed that anyone caught spiking will be barred from the nightclub for life, and their information will be passed on to other bars and clubs in Durham. The nightclub claimed it has “gone a lot further than any other venue” with such measures and called on others to “adopt our approach and hopefully start putting an end to this terrible crime.”
The report lists a further 29 reported cases at Babylon, 23 at Klute and 21 at Players. The Bishop’s Mill, Fabio’s, college bars, and unspecified locations in Newcastle also feature.
Fabio’s responded to the findings by stating: “The recent news of 11 spikings in our club makes us feel sick. We thought we had somehow managed to avoid this tragic epidemic occurring under our roof. This has truly opened our eyes to the evil of people. Our nights, we believed, were inclusive and safe. Therefore, we will be taking action to prevent these incidents.”
The bar explained that it will not be increasing door staff as “more policing doesn’t always equate to a safer environment”, instead it will be stocking drink covers and putting CCTV to greater use to catch perpetrators. Fabio’s also announced that it would be partnering with Urban Angels, a local group that seeks to help protect women walking home.
Players bar also issued a statement explaining that additional measures have already been instated in response to the issue, including additional CCTV monitoring, security and staff training and the provision of drink covers on request. They also noted the need for customers to “stay vigilant” and monitor their drinks.
Wetherspoons stated that there have been “no reported drinking spiking incidents at The Bishop’s Mill”, but that possible incidents will be investigated and safety processes will be reviewed in light of the report. The company will also support any awareness initiatives run by the University.
The cases included in the report are either proven spiking cases, which have been confirmed through toxicology reports or suspected spiking cases that were reported to senior freps at colleges.
Many potential victims have been unable to obtain toxicology reports to confirm suspected cases due to a lack of testing facilities at the University Hospital of North Durham, the report claims. Students have reported being sent to Newcastle to access testing.
When contacted for comment about the lack of testing facilities, a spokesperson for County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust said, “Our emergency department teams investigate and treat the symptoms a patient presents with. When there is a suspicion or allegation that the patient may have been the victim of a crime, that would be referred to our colleagues in the police, who have their own investigative processes.”
The report also notes a lack of education amongst freshers and those looking after them. It states that freps were left feeling “helpless and underprepared” due to insufficient training and that freshers were often ill-informed about the University’s ‘report and support’ system.
“We haven’t had any training on how to respond to this so I’m just ringing 999 if they don’t improve in 15 minutes”, one frep explained.
The findings come amidst student uproar over an anti-spiking campaign launched by Durham University Student Wellbeing. In a now-deleted tweet, the Student Wellbeing team said: “Drink Spiking is dangerous and something that you can prevent from happening to you and your friends. #dontgetspiked Contact the police as soon as possible in a suspected case so an investigation can be conducted and others protected.”
The report commented on this situation, stating: “Recent communications have given the impression that it is the victim’s behaviour that leads to spiking, not the perpetrator.
“Whilst preventative safeguards are important, the University needs to reconsider how the language they use in these messages to avoid this in future.”
Durham University Student Wellbeing said they take concerns about drink spiking “very seriously” and that they will take this opportunity to “learn and improve” its messages on the topic.
In response to the recent increase in spikings, campaigners are encouraging students to boycott Durham’s clubs and bars on Tuesday 26th October. The ‘Durham Night In’ was organised in tandem with similar initiatives at over 30 UK universities as part of a national campaign protesting drink spiking and insufficient safety measures.
The campaign has received support from several college JCRs and Fabio’s has announced that it will close on the night in support of the movement.
Palatinate has contacted Babylon and Klute for comment on the report’s findings.
Image: James Jin via Flickr