Priti calls for tough action on spiking crimes
Witham MP Priti Patel has spoken of the need to take tough action on spiking incidents during a debate in Parliament on 11th January 2023. Highlighting the way in which offenders spike victims with needles, drinks and food, Priti commented on the need for the criminal justice system to pursue offenders and ensure they are prosecuted for these serious crimes.
During her time as Home Secretary, Priti brought in new measures to tackle spiking, including new restrictions on drugs used for spiking, tougher sentences for those in possession of these drugs and funding to support policing and safer streets. Priti, who also paid tribute to victims and campaigners who have spoken out about this issue, said:
“Spiking is a sickening crime with serious consequences leaving women and men vulnerable to being abused and exploited. The Government needs to keep all measures under review to tackle this issue and the police, CPS and courts need to ensure that offenders are prosecuted and punished for these crimes with lengthy prison sentences.”
“Victims must have the confidence to come forward to report these crimes and I welcome the work of campaigners who have highlighted this issue.”
Priti’s speech from Parliamentary debate, 11 January 2023, Official Report, Column 265-266WH.
Priti Patel (Witham) (Con) It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Ms McVey. I praise my hon. Friend the Member for Gloucester (Richard Graham) for all his work and his very significant and assiduous campaigning. When I was Home Secretary, I had the privilege of working on this issue with him and my hon. Friend the Member for Redditch (Rachel Maclean), who was Minister for Safeguarding.
There is a lot I could say, but our time is limited. My hon. Friend the Member for Gloucester has presented figures and statistics on the prevalence of spiking. Although we started to see the first cases of spiking materialise in 2021, particularly in parts of the country such as Nottingham—the student population and young ladies, in particular, were being targeted—the evidence base for spiking with needles is still underdeveloped, and a lot more work is required.
I want to make some general and some specific points. Spiking incidents are obviously unacceptable. They now include a multitude of examples involving food, drinks and now spiking with needles, as we have heard. The prevalence of such incidents is deeply worrying, and the numbers are going up. At the same time, we know that women are involved in this, as well as men.
The Government need a coherent approach to address spiking and criminalise it through law. That can be done through amendments to existing legislation—we do not need to reinvent the wheel here, folks. Work undertaken for the Police, Crime, Courts and Sentencing Act 2022 has laid the foundations for a lot of good work, with which the Minister will probably be familiarising himself today. I think that can be a really strong approach for the Government.
That also links to the violence against women and girls strategy. We cannot lose sight of that work. We have heard about some of the practical measures that have been put in place, and that leads to the policy intent and what that means, in terms of the full force of the law. We absolutely need to acknowledge the courage and determination of the victims who have given voice to this issue, and ensure the campaigning organisations and groups that are represented here today are heard. That must come into force in law too.
In the short time I have left, I want to speak about the end-to-end criminal justice system. A lot of work has been undertaken, including the rape review, to ensure the criminal justice system delivers what it says on the tin: justice for victims. A great deal of work is still required to ensure the police and the Crown Prosecution Service join together to recognise the severity of spiking and the range of offences—the umbrella offences, to use my hon. Friend’s phrase. That would give victims the confidence to come forward and would ensure that they are trusted and that the evidential base that they bring forward is heard.
I will close because I am conscious of time. Offenders and perpetrators must be caught and brought to book. At the same time, as we have heard today, we must give victims the confidence and assurance that when they come forward, they will be treated with respect and all seriousness. We must also go after the perpetrators and ensure that much more work is undertaken to deal with perpetrator behaviour.