Universities are ordered to crack down on spiking of partying students

Universities are ordered to crack down on spiking: Minister vows to stamp out ‘horrific’ crime as she reveals one of her own friends was targeted with ‘devastating consequences’

  • Michelle Donellan said the horrific crime was ‘very close to her heart’ 
  • Universities Minister launched new taskforce to tackle outbreaks of crime
  • Universities told to produce plans to protect students by the end of the year

Universities have been told to get a grip on spiking of students today, as a minister revealed one of her own friends was once targeted with ‘devastating consequences’

Universities Minister Michelle Donelan said the horrific crime, which sees mainly young women targeted with incapacitating drugs on a night out was ‘very close to her heart’.

It came as she launched a new group bringing together university bosses, police, campaigners and victims to end attacks on students.

Higher education centres will also have to produce plans showing how they plan to protect students from spiking  by the end of the year.

A survey last year by student outlet The Tab suggested 11 per cent of students believe they have had their drink spiked, while research by the Alcohol Education Trust found more than one in 10 young adults had been victims of spiking. 

But questions have been raised over whether spiking by injection is actually happening. In January, Police Scotland said there was no evidence to support any of the claims made by students north of the border.

Universities Minister Michelle Donellan said the horrific crime, which sees mainly young women targeted with incapacitating drugs on a night out was ‘very close to her heart’.

Higher education centres will also have to produce plans showing how they plan to protect students from spiking by the end of the year.

Announcing the formation of the taskforce today, Ms Donelan, 38, who attended the University of York, said: ‘This is an issue that is very close to my heart, having had someone close to me spiked when I was younger, which had devastating consequences. 

‘So I know first-hand what a horrific crime this is and I am determined to stamp it out.’

She added: ‘It made me more determined to ensure that we do tackle this issue head on, but equally so have all of the other stories that I have read or the people that I’ve met that have experienced these kinds of horrendous incidences.’ 

She added that the Government wanted to ‘hear from the voices of victims’ and praised the ‘exceptional individuals [who] have the courage to come forward and use their harrowing and awful experience to try and help others’.

She said her priority was that students felt ‘safe’ so that they could ‘enjoy that broader student experience that is so important’.

Last year, universities said that the increasing number of cases of spiking by injection during nights out was ‘incredibly disturbing’.

Several women, including students, reported fearing they had been targeted by people injecting them with drugs at nightlife venues, with reports in a number of parts of the UK, including Nottingham, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

She praised universities such as Nottingham Trent which has been involved in delivering bystander intervention training to staff in night-time city venues, and said that practices like this should be made widespread.

She added that the Government wanted to ‘remove some of the stigma around this issue’ with a Students for Sustainability study showing that 70% of those who believe they have been spiked do not come forward, which ‘leads to the perpetrator in fact getting away with it, free to attack another victim’.

Ms Donelan added that with the ‘evolution’ of spiking some perpetrators ‘horrifically inject [victims] in the arm, which is shocking behaviour and is very hard.

‘The best practice is obviously to have something over your drink – you can’t sort of protect your arms at all periods of time, so it is quite terrifying.’

She said the prevalence of spiking through injection were hard to assess, with some studies suggesting the rate of people coming forward was low, which made ‘evidence-based good practice’ more important.

Today, it was announced that Professor Lisa Roberts, University of Exeter Vice Chancellor, has been appointed to lead the working group and coordinate responses across the university sector. 

Last month a Home Affairs Select Committee report found the true prevalence of spiking – which can include spiking someone’s drinks, ‘hazing’ rituals and attacks with needles – remains unknown.

Ms Donelan added that recent incidents had shown perpetrators were becoming more ‘brazen’ in how they carried out ‘this appalling crime’.

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