Evidence to support increase in needle spiking allegations in Banbury area not been found, say police
Evidence to support an increase in needle spiking allegations - including a “significant cluster” in the Cherwell area - has not been found by Thames Valley Police investigations.
That was the verdict of Thames Valley Police & Crime Commissioner (PCC) Matthew Barber when asked to address a matter that has grabbed headlines in recent weeks.
Needle spiking is an offshoot of drink spiking where people are jabbed without warning and injected with drugs in busy areas such as night spots.
Opinion around needle spiking is divided. Many experts believe the prospect of successfully injecting someone with enough of a substance to affect them without them noticing to be highly unlikely, suggesting there is more credibility to instances of drink spiking.
Cllr Andrew McHugh (Con, Adderbury, Bloxham & Bodicote, Cherwell District Council), a member of the Thames Valley Police & Crime Panel that questions the PCC, said: “One of the manifestations of violence against women and girls is drink spiking and needle sticks.
“In conversation with the local area police commander in Cherwell, we have had reports of a significant cluster of recent allegations.
“Every allegation ties up a significant amount of investigative time. Are you in a position to say whether this significant increase in allegations shows a real increase in the crime per se or whether it reflects previous underreporting?”
Mr Barber replied: “It is really challenging to try to understand, there is complexity around potentially underreporting and overreporting.
"We have certainly seen reports of needle spiking across areas of the Thames Valley, there was the first report in Scotland in September or October which made the news and since then we have received some allegations locally.
“From the conversations I have had with the force and the officer who leads on this, I am not aware of any instances where we have found evidence of needle spiking.
“There are some challenges around the whole issue of spiking and whether it is reported. I would thoroughly encourage women who are concerned about whether they have been spiked to report it to the police at the earliest opportunity.
“Officers are being equipped with test kits and encouraged to obtain all evidence they can at the earliest stage.
“We are not necessarily seeing a huge increase in the number of cases where we find evidence of it following investigation, but we cannot be complacent and actively encourage anyone who has concerns to report them, and have confidence that those cases are being properly looked at. We have test kits available, and we are pursuing those investigations.
“That confidence is incredibly important and there could potentially be some horrific incidents out there that we are missing if people don’t have that confidence.
“What we haven’t seen at the moment is the increase in associated sexual assaults linked to the night-time economy which you may imagine. Without wishing to be too cynical, people aren’t spiking drinks for the fun of it.
“That has not been the case as of yet and I hope that remains the case.”