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Drink spiking advice

by Mark Rowe

All pub and club staff should be aware of their responsibility for customers, who should stay alert, look after each other and not leave drinks unattended. That’s the advice after concerns over drink spiking and customers being injected with muscle relaxants at venues.

Former policeman Mark Morgan runs the new Licensing Security and Vulnerability Initiative, covering England and Wales, at the request of the Home Office by Police Crime Prevention Initiatives (Police CPI), a police-owned body. The Licensing SAVI self-assessment includes drink spiking and the use of ‘date rape drugs’ in licensed venues and gives advice on reducing risk.

Mark said: “I’ve read a lot of recent media reports and have also spoken to many within the licensing industry across England and Wales over recent days, who have highlighted trends of drink spiking within their areas, and more recently, incidents whereby the victim appears to have been injected with drugs. This is of huge concern at a time when there is such a focus on the safety of women and girls.

“There are simple steps which can be taken to avoid this, from venues displaying prominent signage reminding customers not to leave their drinks unattended and not to accept drinks from strangers; training all staff in the danger of drinks being spiked and encouraging them to monitor unattended drinks; making all staff aware of the necessity to provide immediate assistance to any customer feeling dizzy, disorientated or showing signs of intoxication, and if anyone is acting suspiciously around unattended drinks, asking them to leave immediately. We advise venues to call the police immediately if drink spiking is suspected. Venues should also consider providing stopper devices, such as lids to put on drinking vessels, which can reduce the risk of a drink being spiked.

“Regarding the use of injections, venues should consider their stance on searches, and where applicable review their search policy. Door Supervisors do not have legal or statutory power to search any person; however, a venue can have a “condition of entry” whereby customers enter the premises on the condition that the security staff are permitted to search them. If they refuse consent, then they should be refused entry. Signage should clearly explain venue search policy, which may include the use of metal detector wands or a detecting arch. Searches should be carried out courteously and as efficiently as possible, with good engagement between all parties. Random search policies should be undertaken at a frequency likely to act as a deterrent factor. The key here of course is education, engagement, and proportionate measures. The current trend is well publicised so venues should not be afraid of explaining to customers that the efforts undertaken are to ensure their safety and in deterring offences.

“It is important that any offences or suspicious behaviours are reported to police, who will then be able to analyse records to identify areas where they can target their activity and work in partnership to ensure safe socialising environments.

“For customers, if your drink has been spiked, it’s unlikely that you’ll see, smell, or taste any difference, albeit some drugs may taste slightly salty or smell unusual. If you start to feel strange or feel that your drink has had more of an effect on you than it should have, get help immediately. Try to avoid drinking too much alcohol, particularly when in unfamiliar surroundings as you could make risky decisions and become less aware of potential danger. Never leave your drink unattended and keep an eye on your friends’ drinks. Be careful about accepting a drink from someone you don’t know. Think about drinking bottled drinks and avoiding shared drinks such as punch bowls or cocktail jugs. Please don’t provide personal details, especially your address, to someone you’ve just met. You should plan your nights out and travel arrangements using only recognised travel routes and providers. Regarding the recent use of injection as a means to deliver drugs, be aware of any sharp, sudden pains, and check the affected area for an injection site if you do experience this. Call 999 immediately.

“If you think your drink has been tampered with, don’t drink it – tell a trusted friend, relative, medic, police or someone you completely trust immediately. If alone, call someone you trust and get to a safe place. If you need urgent help, call 999. Be wary of accepting help from a stranger and don’t leave with someone you don’t know. If you feel unwell, someone you trust should take you to your nearest A & E department and tell the medical staff that you think your drink has been spiked, being sure to arrange for a trusted friend or relative to take you home and if necessary, stay with you until any drugs have fully left your system.

“Nevertheless – despite best efforts of any given venue and their partners, it is likely that those determined to use controlled drugs within entertainment establishments will be able to do so. As such, I have previously supported on-site drug testing initiatives, which are able to quickly share information around dangerous drugs in circulation, being a means of pro-active harm reduction and minimising risk to those intent on using. Liaison with local police should be undertaken regarding such measures.”


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