A YOUNG woman who believes her drink was laced with a date rape drug before she blacked out has welcomed calls to tackle ‘spiking’ in bars and clubs.

Hollie, who is 21, said a friend and her both began to feel unwell after accepting drinks from a group of lads they knew while at The Keys in Yarm last August.

It was her second drink of the evening and she woke up in hospital the following morning with no memory of what happened to her.

Hollie, who does not want to give her surname, said: “Someone saw us and took us outside and rang my partner.

“I don’t remember anything. I woke up in North Tees at 6am the next morning with no idea what had happened.

“My heart rate was going to 180 in my sleep. The consultant at the time said they had seen it before with rohypnol. They were almost certain that was what was put in our drinks.

“I have not been to a nightclub since. It has ruined it for me.”

This week MPs said bars and clubs with a bad track record on spiking should be required to improve if they are to have their licences renewed.

A report by the Home Affairs Committee said not enough is being done to support spiking victims and it will remain an “invisible crime” unless action is taken to improve awareness.

It said it is difficult to know the true scale because a culture of victim-blaming and a lack of co-ordinated support has meant many incidents are going unreported.

But creating a new criminal offence for spiking, which the Government is considering, would make victims more likely to come forward and signal to perpetrators that such behaviour will be punished.

Hollie said: “I think it is a good idea. It is important that they have looked into it and not just accept that this is what happens on a night out.

“They are looking into why this is happening. It is good to see someone is doing something about it.”

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Earlier this year, County Durham and Darlington Police and Crime Commissioner Joy Allen told the Home Affairs Committee Durham Constabulary received 82 reports of spiking between October 10, 2021 and January 20, 2022.

Of this figure, 37 were thought to be injection-related spiking incidents, but this was reduced from 37 to 25 offences after medical examination.

Ms Allen said: "Whichever way you look at this, spiking is a physical assault and should be treated as such. 

"That’s why I am leading on the call for spiking, both via drinks and needles, to be made a separate criminal offence. 

"This would create a deterrent for potential offenders, encourage victims to come forward and report their experiences and assist with successful prosecutions."

Over the past year, Durham Constabulary and other organisations have also worked on a number of practical measures including enhanced training for licensed premises door staff, the opening of a night safety hub in Durham City and extra weekend patrols by officers.

 Durham Constabulary spokeswoman said: “We have carried out thorough investigations into every report of drink spiking we have received.

“These investigations have been carried out by a dedicated team of detectives, overseen by an experienced senior investigative officer and supported by local neighbourhood policing officers.

“Together these officers have scrutinised hours of CCTV footage, interviewed multiple witnesses, and organised for the forensic examination of urine and blood samples.

“Drink spiking is a serious offence and one which we take extremely seriously – as demonstrated by the levels of resourcing we have allocated to it.”

The issue has been a particular concern among the student population with several reports being made by young women.

A Durham University spokesperson said: “Students have reported concerns to us about spiking on nights out, and we take this very seriously.

“We have issued safety advice, supplied anti-spiking devices and are running a pilot scheme for testing for spiking.

“In addition the #DurhamUnite campaign, led by students in collaboration with Durham University and Durham Students’ Union, is calling on licensed venues to do everything they can to help their customers stay safe on nights out. If venues sign up, they can display the #DurhamUnite logo.”

The Home Affairs Committee report said local authorities and licensing authorities need to ensure that venues have adequate security and staff trained to identify spiking incidents.

Venues with a bad track record on spiking and wider issues relating to violence against women should have improvement measures required as part of their licence renewal, it said.

Alan Patrickson, Durham County Council’s corporate director for neighbourhoods and climate change and chairman of Durham City Safety Group, said: “Drink spiking is an inexcusable act and we would fully support a new criminal offence being created both to ensure anyone carrying it out faces appropriate action, and to serve as a deterrent.

“Like authorities up and down the country and indeed globally we do receive reports of spiking which we take extremely seriously.

“We encourage anyone who believes they may have been spiked to report it immediately so they can receive appropriate help and support.”

According to a survey run by the committee, 84 per cent of victims said they did not receive support after the first time they were spiked, and 72 per cent said they did not report the incident.

The questionnaire was completed by 1,895 victims and 1,413 witnesses between December 2021 and January 2022.

Most victims were female, with 139 victims identifying as male and 21 people choosing “other”, and most respondents were younger than 25, although victims of all ages took part.

Stockton South MP Matt Vickers, who is a member of the Home Affairs committee said: “The scourge of spiking is on the rise and the findings of this survey make for some pretty bleak reading.

“It is a sad fact that the vast majority of people do not report the fact that they have been victims of spiking, meaning that current reports are only the tip of the iceberg.

“The lack of accurate data also prevents policymakers and the police from setting up well-targeted, effective initiatives to tackle this problem at its root.

“Spiking has extremely serious mental and physical health effects on victims. “We cannot allow this to continue and I hope that this report brings with it rapid action from the Home Office to end this epidemic that sadly continues to thrive in our clubs, pubs and bars.”

Anyone who thinks they may have been spiked can access support from the County Durham Drug and Alcohol Recovery Service, by phoning 03000 266 666 Monday to Friday 8.30am- 5pm, Saturdays 9am-12.30pm.


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