PSNI urges victims to come forward after disturbing reports of incidents in Derry

Disturbing reports of a spate of ‘drink-spiking’ incidents have prompted calls for more victims to come forward as police logs show the crime is seriously under-reported.

Friday, 22nd October 2021, 3:01 pm
A teenager was taken to hospital at the weekend.

Anger and alarm were expressed when a teenager had to be taken to hospital by ambulance from Derry city centre after she became unwell having reportedly had her drink spiked with an unknown substance on Saturday.

Now Ulster University has confirmed at least three students at Magee believe they were spiked in the past week. The incidents occurred off-campus and UU says the victims are being supported by its residential life team and were ‘encouraged to visit A&E and report the instance to the PSNI.’

Police have urged anyone who thinks they may have been spiked to contact them.

PSNI Inspector McManus said: “We are aware of a related post on social media, which states that several individuals had their drinks spiked in the city during the weekend. Drink-spiking can, of course, result in the most serious of harm. I’m keen to encourage the individuals, and indeed anyone who believes they have been the victim of drink-spiking, to make a report to police by contacting 101.”

SDLP MLA Sinéad McLaughlin, who intends meeting the PSNI today, said: “My office has received allegations of several incidents of drinks being spiked in Derry city centre bars. This is extremely concerning and this must be taken very seriously.”

Sinn Féin MLA Ciara Ferguson said the development was ‘extremely worrying.’ “We are now heading into to the very busy Hallowe’en and Christmas period which will see a large influx of people into entertainment venues and bars in our city and its very sad that in today’s society we have to warn people about the dangers of drinks being spiked,” she said.

Figures released by the PSNI show that the offence of ‘drink-spiking’, like many sexual offences and offences against the person, is seriously under-reported in Derry.

Police logs show that from 2016 to 2020, there were only two recorded offences where a victim reported their drink had been spiked in Derry.

Both reports occurred in 2017 and following an investigation ‘no suspect’ could be identified. Across the north there were 58 reported incidents of ‘8N Assault with injury - administering poison with intent to injury or annoy’ and ‘88C Other Miscellaneous Sexual Offences’ over the same period all of which involved a victim’s drink being ‘spiked’.

In 48 of these cases ‘no suspect’ could be identified while in the remaining ten cases the PSNI reported ‘evidential difficulties.’

The information on the 58 recorded offences for the period 2016-2020 was released in response to a Freedom of Information request.

The PSNI told the ‘Journal’ yesterday there have been six reports of drinks being spiked from January to September 2021 across the north.

Police could not provide a breakdown for Derry and were unable to advise how many people had reported drink-spiking incidents since the weekend.

Sinn Féin Foyle MLA Ciara Ferguson said: “Adding alcohol or drugs to someone’s drink, commonly known as drink spiking, has become an increasingly worrying trend in recent years and very often the unsuspecting victim will not be aware until it is too late. There are a number of steps that people can take to help protect themselves including: No one should ever leave their drink unattended.

“If you need to go somewhere without your drink, try to ensure someone you trust will watch it until you get back or discard it. You should never let a stranger buy you a drink.”

SDLP MLA Sinéad McLaughlin has asked the Minister for Justice Naomi Long to review the legislation, to consider ‘whether protection for women is adequate and can be strengthened’.

“I have also asked her whether more can be done in terms of training and regulation of bouncers, to ensure they know how to protect customers.

“Bars also need to consider their use of CCTV and the collection and retention of evidence.

“But it is important to stress that penalties for these acts of criminality are already severe, with drug spiking potentially leading to a ten year prison term and serious sexual assault facilitated by the use of drugs potentially leading to a life sentence,” she said.