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Volume 734: debated on Tuesday 13 June 2023

Motion for leave to bring in a Bill (Standing Order No. 23)

I beg to move,

That leave be given to bring in a Bill to make provision about the law in relation to administering or attempting to administer drugs, alcohol or any other substance to a person without their consent, whether or not with the intent to cause harm; and for connected purposes.

The clue to the purpose of the ten-minute rule motion is the word “spiking”, which is known and understood by everyone in this Chamber and the vast majority of people in our country. Spiking has been debated before in this House, most recently on 11 January in a Westminster Hall debate in my name. Many Members here today spoke in that debate. Spiking was also the subject of a Home Affairs Committee report published in April 2022.

Almost 5,000 cases of spiking have been reported to police forces across the country. The fact that the police are not obliged formally to collate data on spiking suggests that this is the visible tip of a largely hidden iceberg. That is why spiking was the subject of my earlier ten-minute rule Bill 18 months ago, why the Select Committee focused on the issue, and why it welcomed Ministers at that time looking closely at creating a separate offence of spiking. The Select Committee recommended—rightly, in my view—the creation of a specific offence that would improve reporting of spiking and the gathering of more information about it.

We all recognise that the current legislation on spiking centres on the Offences against the Person Act 1861 and the Sexual Offences Act 2003. One covers the use of noxious substances, the other sexual gratification. However, both Acts are silent on the word “spiking”, which does not exist formally. Indeed, search engines describe it as an informal term meaning to

“add alcohol or a drug to contaminate (drink or food) surreptitiously”.

That is part of it, but it is not all of it.

Some lawyers may argue that existing law covers all aspects of what we term “spiking”—including even spiking by injection, spiking for fun, and spiking without chemical addition—and that we do not need a new informal term in law, a definition of it, or any bringing together of existing laws in modern language and in one place to inform the nightlife sector, the public, colleges and universities, the police and the public at large. I regret to say that the implied message from the Home Office is, “It is all fine as it is.” Yet it is not fine, which is why I am here, like Oliver Twist, seeking more—or rather, seeking action, which is what colleagues from all parties want to see.

When the police do not have to collect the data but have still recorded 5,000 reported cases; when police and crime commissioners want, and the Select Committee recommends, a definition of and a crime described as “spiking”; and when Government Ministers and MPs themselves have been victims of spiking, I believe that it is time for the Government to react and act.

Let me repeat what colleagues have said on previous occasions. One said:

“I know from my inbox that people of all ages and areas will be very pleased that this is being highlighted as it’s awful, can be embarrassing and is often very grim”.

Another wrote that

“speaking to police they find that most cases are young women with an unexpected response to drinks…I really worry about the fear that our young live under, and wonder whether this is another type of control of women.”

The Chair of the Home Affairs Committee, the right hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull North (Dame Diana Johnson), highlighted the problem when she said:

“There is not a specific criminal offence. If a drink is spiked or if an injection takes place, it is rolled into a different criminal offence.”

Those things have all helped to build my understanding of this nightmare experience, which was first drawn to my attention by the experience of my constituent, Maisy Farmer. It is no longer possible for an MP to claim credibly that reports of spiking are unproven. However, it is true that it is not easy for a victim to prove spiking by having a hospital examination of her—or sometimes his—body prioritised to identify the drug, or to provide the identity of a spiker from a crowded nightclub.

That raises two key questions: how should the law change, and what would a change of law achieve? No MP has the responses of Government Departments in advance, so whether it is best to amend existing law or to create a new, defined crime of spiking that covers all contexts is surely for the Government—the Home Office and Ministry of Justice together—to decide.

As to what such a change might achieve, there is a clear opportunity to send a simple message in the language of our times to all those who might think spiking is clever or funny about the criminality of spiking, or attempting to spike, those going out to public or private places.

It is surely a legitimate aim of legislation to consolidate and clarify, using modern language; to nudge behaviour; and to oblige the police to do more than Operation Lester—a temporary project—and to record what is happening accurately over time. Legislation would allow us all in this place to focus on making our constituents’ lives, and nights out, safer, and give our businesses full support in driving down spiking crimes.

The overriding reason for pursuing doggedly the issue of spiking is that we have not done enough and should do more. As the former safeguarding Minister, my hon. Friend the Member for Redditch (Rachel Maclean), said in January:

“We need a holistic response to this crime...We need…legislative change…making sure that police forces can gather data and mount prosecutions using forensic capabilities”—[Official Report, 11 January 2023; Vol. 725, c. 270WH.]

She and many colleagues highlighted, as does the National Police Chiefs’ Council, the lack of a clear criminal offence of spiking.

If the Home Office and Ministry of Justice need further encouragement, I urge them to consider the matter as a violence against woman and girls issue, as it so often is. Policing lead Maggie Blyth said: “If you are spiked, you must come forward. If you have taken illegal drugs, still come forward and report it.” That would be much easier if spiking were a crime. So many of my colleagues and constituents, as well as university groups, student unions, and Dawn Dines of Stamp Out Spiking, have made those points time and again. As the Security Minister said in the previous debate,

“no one wants a gap in the law. No one wants to see crimes going unpunished and no one wants to see victims unable to achieve the level of protection that is absolutely essential.”—[Official Report, 11 January 2023; Vol. 725, c. 282WH.]

That is true and fine, but we need to act, for the thousands of people who have been spiked and those who might still be. The House is here to reflect the concerns of our constituents. We should recognise that spiking exists and should be defined. The law should make all the criminal aspects of spiking clear, in one place. It is quite simply time to stop spiking now.

Question put and agreed to.


That Richard Graham, Vicky Ford, Sally-Ann Hart, Caroline Nokes, Dame Diana Johnson, Valerie Vaz, Joanna Cherry, Wendy Chamberlain, Jim Shannon and David Mundell present the Bill.

Richard Graham accordingly presented the Bill.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 24 November, and to be printed (Bill 323).