Spiking is predominantly a ‘problem of violence against women’ - as 30 incidents take place in two months

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Latest data from St John’s Ambulance Service shows that young women are more vulnerable to spiking on nights out

Spiking on nights out is predominantly a problem among young women aged 18 to 25 in England, according to St John’s Ambulance Service.

More than 30 women were spiked on Friday and Saturday nights in less than two months, the Home Affairs Committee inquiry into spiking has heard.

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In December the Home Affairs Committee launched a new inquiry to better understand the prevalence of spiking, the impacts on victims and the effectiveness of the police response to it.

It comes as victims of spiking incidents have reported not being believed when they have sought tests at A&E - which, in turn, has led them not wanting to follow it up with police.

Giving evidence to the second hearing, a leading doctor in emergency medicine said if patients are not displaying a threat to life they will be sent home without testing.

Predominantly females targeted by spiking 

According to latest data recorded by the St John’s Ambulance Service, 44 people were spiked on nights out between 12 November and 7 January.

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The information on suspected spiking incidents was collected across 10 nighttime support hubs operated by the ambulance service, including Newcastle, Norwich, Birmingham and Manchester.

Jade Quittendon of St John’s Ambulance Service told the committee: “We collected data on spiking reported across 10 of those services; of those involved, 32 were female, 10 were male, and two preferred not to state their gender.

“Looking across all genders, it was predominantly females in the age range of 18 to 25.”

The service was initially set up in four cities to reduce pressure on A&E between 9pm to 3pm on Friday and Saturday evenings before opening up eight more support centres.

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‘Culture of disbelief’ at hospitals

In a previous evidence hearing witnesses had claimed there was a “culture of disbelief” surrounding spiking incidents at A&E.

Two out of three suspected victims felt the little support they recieved at hospital would translate into not being believed by police.

Dr Adrian Boyle, Vice President of The Royal College of Emergency Medicine, said: “The police will contact us if they have concerns about the medical health of a patient.

“I do not get the impression that they do that a lot. What we do see quite a lot of is people becoming slightly unwell outside a nightclub and being directed by people working in the night-time economy to go to the hospital—particularly if there is an allegation.

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“There is a perception, certainly in the night-time economy, that you go to A&E and they’ll do everything there. That is simply not the case.”

As of 6 December 2021, the National Police Chiefs Council (NPCC) recorded a total 670 reports of injection spiking incidents across the UK - since the start of September 2021.

The latest advice from the NPCC is to encourage anyone who believes they have been a victim or witness to spiking, in any form, to contact their local police force as quickly as possible for officers to collect the best evidence.

‘Unhappiness’ with lack of medical testing

Dr Boyle told the Home Affairs Select Committee that needle spiking is new but drink spiking has always been prevalent. 

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He said trends are now emerging as female victims are more often becoming targets.

“I would certainly say that this is predominantly a problem of violence against women and girls—not exclusively, but predominantly.”

He added that the majority of people who present to emergency departments with allegations of spiking do not have illicit drugs in their system.

“When patients turn up at emergency departments, we are not there to provide a forensic service,” he said.

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“There is often a lot of unhappiness that we are not taking samples and sending them off to find out what happened.

“When people turn up at emergency departments with an allegation of spiking, our first job is asking whether there is a threat to life. Is this causing a medical problem that requires the attention of a doctor? Have they become acutely psychotic?

“Are they seeing things, or hallucinating? Are they becoming unconscious? Are they developing some other consequence of ingesting poison?

“The vast majority of cases that we see don’t have any of those, and we tend to send them home without doing any testing.”

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The Home Affairs Committee is holding another evidence session on the issue of spiking today (26 January).

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