UEA to join universities seeking to stamp out 'heinous' spiking attacks

Group of young people celebrating with drinks in nightclub

The UEA student union said it had seen a rise in reports of drinks being spiked. - Credit: Getty Images

A new working group will be set up to stamp out the "heinous" issue of spiking at universities, the government has announced.

The group will bring together vice-chancellors, police, campaigners and victims to create plans for practical steps to keep students safe following a spate of attacks in UK universities.

Generic UEA, University of East Anglia. Picture: Supplied

UEA student union officers urged students to report if they suspected they had been spiked on a night out. - Credit: UEA

Last year, the University of East Anglia was among those that saw an increasing number of cases of students reporting spiking.

Incidents were widely reported as nightclubs and bars reopened following Covid restrictions with Norfolk police recording 60 reports - 51 of them in Norwich - during October and November alone.

One 23-year-old UEA student warned of the dangers after being left unable to see or stand up while on a night out in Norwich.

And several others have come forward - with strikingly similar stories.

UEA Student’s Union said it had also seen increases in reported spiking incidents in its on campus venues.

Michelle Donelan

Higher and further education minister Michelle Donelan - Credit: UK Parliament

Announcing the new working group, higher and further education minister Michelle Donelan said she would be asking every university to introduce a policy to tackle spiking by the end of the year.

"I think to tackle this horrendous and heinous problem, we do need to work collaboratively," she said.

"Most of these incidents happen outside of the university or college campuses, but of course they are important anchor institutions in their community - equally, we know that the night-time economy has a role to play here, police have a role to play here."

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".

Drugs being put into a drink in a nightclub

Harsher jail sentences have been brought in for people in possession of GHB, a drug used to spike drinks - Credit: Getty Images

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The UEA said it has a zero tolerance policy on spiking and highlighted a number of measures including bag searches, disposing of unattended drinks quickly, covers for drinks and an online tool for reporting concerns

A recent 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.

Earlier this month Norfolk’s police and crime commissioner Giles Orpen-Smellie admitted revellers remained fearful that they could fall victim.

He said the prevalence of spiking through injection was hard to assess. Some studies suggest the rate of people coming forward was low.