By Poppy Askham
Police are yet to make a prosecution in relation to 82 reports of spiking, 25 of which were injection-related, in County Durham between October and December 2021.
The number of cases reported to police in Durham falls significantly below the figures recorded by St Chad’s JCR Vice-President Joe Anson in a report into the prevalence of suspected spiking incidents in Freshers’ week, the week before it and weekend after. Anson found 167 incidents of possible spiking in bars and clubs in Durham and Newcastle, including college bars, had been reported to college JCRs and welfare during this time period.
Superintendent Neal Bickford, from Durham Constabulary, commented on the current lack of convictions, telling Palatinate: “Thorough investigations, which include medical and forensic examinations, are being carried out into each report of this type of offence.
“Drink spiking is a serious offence and we will always take reports of this type of crime seriously – if you believe you have been a victim of drink spiking, report it to us on 101 and seek medical attention immediately.”
St Chad’s JCR President Hala Heenan told Palatinate that the lack of prosecutions so far showed “just how painfully slow our justice system sometimes is”.
Heenan noted that “a strained relationship between the police and students” may have contributed to the low number of cases reported to police. “I think that people need to feel they will be taken seriously when reporting spiking cases to the police”, she explained.
More than 1,400 Durham students pledged to boycott clubs and bars in October last year as part of a national anti-spiking movement. Heenan, who was instrumental to the Durham Night In initiative said, “My fear is that people will start to think that the police and clubs only cared about taking action when they faced national criticism”.
Durham’s Police and Crime Commissioner, Joy Allen told MPs this week that the number of reports to police was unlikely to reflect the true number of incidents, explaining that “only 10% of people who have been a victim of spiking feel confident enough to report it in”.
Speaking to the BBC, Allen said “We want the victims to feel they can come forward, not just in Durham but nationally.”
“I want the perpetrators to understand there’s a risk of being caught”, she added.
Allen’s comments come amid an official inquiry into spiking launched by the Home Affairs Committee in December, to investigate the prevalence of spiking and whether police are “doing enough to identify perpetrators”.
MP Tim Loughton, acting chair of the Committee, said “We want to understand what more can be done to stamp this out, but also how victims can be better supported in reporting these incidents and dealing with the long-term consequences on them.”
Palatinate contacted the Office of Durham’s Police and Crime Commissioner for comment, but received no response.
Image: deischi via Flickr