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Students warned about ‘new phenomenon’ of needle spiking in nightclubs

·2 min read
 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

First-year university students will be warned about the risk of needle spiking in nightclubs through a new government ad campaign.

The Home Office has said it is looking into launching the campaign at the start of the new academic year in September to urge students to stay vigilant.

It comes after the number of students reporting being spiked with needles surged around the same time last year.

Research by student publication The Tab, cited by the government, found that 11 per cent of students surveyed said they had been spiked.

The survey, which involved 23,000 students from 19 universities, found that of those who had been spiked, 35 per cent of the incidents occurred at house parties, 28 per cent in nightclubs, 13 per cent in bars, and seven per cent at festivals.

In a letter published by the Home Affairs Committee on Monday 4 July, the government said the campaign will reflect on the fact that “reports of needle-spiking peaked around the same period in 2021, coinciding with the university year starting, and the various ‘fresher’s weeks’ that will be launching around that time”.

The Committee, which launched an inquiry into the spiking incidents last year, also urged the government to launch a national anti-spiking communications campaign as part of the ongoing campaign to reduce violence against women and girls.

Last year, reports of needle spiking were being made mostly by young women and university students, prompting widespread fear among these groups for their safety.

It said that the campaign should “send a clear message that there is no acceptable defence for spiking” and inform potential perpetrators that spiking is a crime punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

Victims of spiking should also be offered immediate and longer-term support, the committee said, after a survey it carried out found that the vast majority of respondents said they did not receive support.

While there is a lack of official data around the incidents, figures that are available show that fewer than two per cent of spiking offences reported to the police led to a prosecution in 2020.

In January, the National Police Chiefs’ Council revealed that nearly 1,400 incidents of needle spiking had been reported in the UK in the five months prior.

Deputy Chief Constable Jason Harwin said at the time that the issue was a “new phenomenon” and pointed towards a clear “issue here in the UK”.