Creation of separate spiking offence ‘should be examined further', MSPs told

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Creating a separate offence for spiking “should be examined further”, MSPs have heard.

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The Education, Young People and Children Committee at Holyrood held a one-off evidence session to discuss a recent spate in reported spiking, both of drinks and by injection, in Scotland.

A number of social media reports circulated in October of incidents in major cities with high student populations, but police say the number of reports have since decreased.

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There is currently no standalone offence for spiking, and such reports are dealt with using the drugging offence or under the Sexual Offences Act (Scotland) 2009.

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Kate Wallace, the chief executive officer of Victim Support Scotland, was among those who supported the move.

“I think the conversation that we’ve been having around people feeling confident to report, feeling confident that they will be believed, and there will be an appropriate response both within a support system, and within the criminal justice system, I do think that looking at (creating a separate offence) would be helpful,” she said.

Ms Wallace pointed to the creation of a separate offence of stalking which is now in place in Scotland, saying: “That makes a massive difference for victims and how they perceive how they’re going to be believed, how they’re going to be taken seriously.”

She added: “I think it should be examined further.”

Mike Grieve, the chairman of the Night Time Industries Association, also voiced his support for a legislative change, saying it could help to “build up an accurate picture” of spiking in Scotland, adding it could “shed light” on spiking by injection specifically.

Ellen MacRae, the President of the Edinburgh University Students Association, added that the creation of a new offence would “legitimise people’s experiences and their fears around spiking”.

But SNP MSP James Dornan raised concerns about the complexity of the legislation, questioning “where do you draw a line” on any offence.

Spiking by adding extra alcohol to a drink is the most common form, and Mr Dornan questioned whether an offence could criminalise someone buying a friend a bigger drink than requested at a bar.

“What happens if you buy your mate a double without his permission? Where is the line drawn and how do you target those that need to be targeted?

“I think that’s one of the difficulties – although I definitely have supported legislation before which is about sending out that strong message and I can see where a strong message could be sent out here – I just worry about the practical difficulties.”

In response, Mr Grieve said: “I think it’s really important to acknowledge that getting your mate a double if he’s not asked for it actually does cross a line.

“That’s why, in my opinion, there should be legislation around this because otherwise people will always say, ‘I was just having a laugh’.”

Ms Wallace agreed with Mr Grieve’s point, while Mr Dornan added: “It does highlight the difficulty in what we’re talking about because you’re talking about changing a culture for people of a certain generation – but I agree, actually, with everything that’s just been said in relation to it, that they’re doing the wrong thing.”

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