There have been many headlines recently relating to women and their safety, particularly at night. From murders to assaults and cases of spiking, there are real issues that need to be addressed.
The most recent government announcement on the issue is funding for new projects focusing on improving the safety of women and girls at night. The Safety of Women at Night Fund awards up to £5 million to twenty-two organisations who submitted bids for the funding.
This funding follows an earlier project focused on safety on the streets with interventions such as educational programmes to raise awareness, more street-lights and CCTV.
The bids came from civil society organisations, police forces and local authorities. The successful bids include the following initiatives:
Bristol – the City Council is to trial drink spiking detection kits which will be available to all police officers, and also sixty night-time venues. These drugs can leave the body quite quickly, so early detection is vital for the police to obtain relevant evidence.
Cheshire – the Police and Crime Commissioner aims to improve the call handling technology to “provide an instant visible and reassuring response” to any female calling the police from an urban area. Call handlers will be able to see callers and view any evidence of an alleged offence. The Sussex PCC has successfully bid for similar technological improvements.
Sussex, Northamptonshire, West Yorkshire, North Wales – these areas are to trial the use of volunteer taxi marshals. The aim is to prevent unregistered taxis from picking up clients to ensure females can access safe transport.
West Yorkshire – a train safety campaign is planned to promote access to a web link containing safety information for public transport users. The information will include tracking to reduce the need to stand alone at a bus stop if a bus is delayed.
The reports in the media would tend to suggest that incidences of spiking are on the increase. Whilst it may be fairly obvious that physical and sexual assaults are unlawful, the laws around spiking may be more unknown.
What is spiking?
Historically, spiking has been seen as the addition of a substance to a drink, drugs such as Rohypnol, which can cause a person to lose sexual inhibitions. This would allow the spiker to take advantage of that person; the victim may not realise they have been spiked and not recall what occurred afterwards. More recently, there have been reports of people being injected with a substance.
Whatever the method of administering the drug, it is the fact that it was administered, and the intent of the person who did it can be important. However, even without a specific intent an offence is still committed.
Various offences can be committed, such as administering a noxious substance with intent to injure, aggrieve or annoy, or to do so in a way to endanger life or inflict grievous bodily harm.
In the recent case of Christea, the two co-accused hatched a plan for one of them to meet a man on Grindr and to administer a drug with a sedative effect in order for property to be stolen. Two men were targeted, and on the second occasion, the man regrettably died after receiving a fatal dose. The two co-accused were convicted of murder as they were found to have the intent to cause serious harm because they intended to render the victims unconscious.
Another recent case is that of Coot-Sellers, two co-accused admitted drugging a female to access her phone to see if she was having an affair. A suspended sentence of 12 months was imposed for one defendant and immediate imprisonment of 18 months for the second.
In 2007 a man was seen to place Xanax into the complainant’s drink; he told the waiter that he intended for the complainant to be “knocked out”. He was convicted of administering a substance with intent under the Sexual Offences Act and sentenced to three and a half years imprisonment.
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[Image credit: “Luxor Casino – LAX Nightclub – Las Vegas” by Kaloozer is licensed under CC BY 2.0]