There is no evidence of any cases of people being spiked by injection, the UK’s private security watchdog and second biggest police force have said.
Last year there were widespread reports in the UK of people, mostly women aged between 18 and 25 who posted about their experiences on Instagram and Twitter, being spiked by needles in nightclubs. VICE World News has previously reported how experts urged caution at the reports.
On Wednesday a Parliamentary inquiry into spiking heard from Paul Fullwood, director of inspections and enforcement at the Security Industry Authority (SIA), which regulates the UK’s private security sector including night clubs. He said the SIA had received “no intelligence of spiking by needle.”
Fullwood told MPs on the Home Affairs Committee that the under-reported nature of spiking to security staff was possibly behind the lack of intelligence. The SIA’s written evidence elaborates that “none of the intelligence reports received by us have referred to any specific type of drug, nor have any reports contained allegations of spiking by a needle.”
The reports of needle spiking, a new phenomenon, began last autumn with some of the earliest cases appearing in Edinburgh and Dundee. They were accompanied by a surge in reports of drink-spiking around the UK.
By mid-November last year, UK police forces said 274 cases of injection spiking had been reported. However, experts told VICE World News that a particular set of criteria would need to be fulfilled for spiking injections to be possible in the first place, casting doubt over the high prevalence of cases that was being reported in the media.
Between January and October last year, police in Scotland received 51 complaints from people who had said they were spiked by injection.
A lack of arrests in Scotland and elsewhere in the UK, as well as answers about where “puncture injuries” were coming from, has left hundreds of victims in the dark about what happened to them.
Yesterday, Detective Chief Superintendent Laura McLuckie from Police Scotland told the Scottish Police Authority: “We don’t have any identified cases of any spiking by injection in Scotland at this time. We’re not seeing any drugs within people’s systems that we would class as being a drug that would be used in spiking. There is clearly alcohol involved. There is clearly recreational drug use involved.”
Other police forces around the UK are still struggling to find information around spiking reports in their area.
During a meeting of the police and crime commissioner’s public accountability board on the 10th of January, South Yorkshire Police’s Chief Superintendent said that “of the 45 crimes…. in December, 12 made reference to an injection, of which only one had been confirmed by a medical professional.
“This is a strange phenomenon, frankly, that has evolved since October where normally we would see spiking associated with a further offence but we are seeing very little of that. That’s why I think there potentially is something that’s trending somewhere that’s caught the attention of individuals. Please do not construe that as we do not believe the victim, we absolutely know that something’s happened to these victims, we’re just not entirely sure what.”
South Yorkshire Police are yet to clarify whether the medical professional has confirmed that an injection injury was sustained, or whether drugs were found in the victim’s system.
Experts who spoke to VICE World News last year said that the limits of current testing capabilities, in addition to the fact that many victims do not report their crime or report once any possible drugs have long left their system, meant that the evidence, if it existed, would most likely not be spotted.
Several stakeholders who are involved in the public inquiry have cited a lack of data across nightlife, policing and healthcare. Last year, VICE World News uncovered the glaring data gaps that were leaving all victims – both of drink spiking as well as the new claims around injection spiking – in the dark and unable to seek justice or answers.
Chief Constable Sarah Crew, the National Police Chiefs’ Council Lead on Adult Sexual Offences, submitted evidence detailing that although all Law Enforcement was compiling an assessment of the situation, there is still “the lack of understanding of motive” around reports of needle attacks, several months on, as “offences appear to be random.” She added “we are seeing a very small number of further offences linked to this initial offence, such as sexual offences and robbery.”
Matt Navarra, a social media expert, said it was the visceral images of mysterious marks on arms that made injection spiking go viral: “It’s easy to put it into a tweet or TikTok. It has shock value but that believability in this that makes it something highly likely to spread quickly and easily across many social platforms without an evidence base to support.”
“Then you’ve got news headlines which led the reader onto a path in which they believed it to be true, when actually it’s speculation. Because there’s such a wide number of people who could be affected by it, and as a society we’re more sensitive to what affects the most vulnerable in society and the spotlight on abuse against women, it all just builds up a story that’s waiting to be spun out and shared across all social platforms.”
Adam Waugh from Psycare UK, a welfare and harm reduction charity, told VICE World News there is still a lot of work to be done to make venues safer for women: “Drug facilitated sexual assault (DFSA) can take many forms, such as putting alcohol or other drugs in someone’s drink in order to sexually assault them or sexually assaulting somebody who is too intoxicated to consent.
“The fact that ‘injection spiking’ is nowhere near as widespread as initially reported should not mean people think other forms of DFSA are uncommon.”
In his written submission to the Parliamentary inquiry, he said that this could include “zero tolerance approaches to any sexually inappropriate behaviour,” “broadening the discussion around drink spiking to include all forms of DFSA” and “taking a harm reduction approach to drug use at festivals.”