Scotland should consider introducing specific spiking offence, MSPs told

Scotland should consider introducing a specific criminal offence of spiking, MSPs have heard.

It comes after police saw a "significant increase" in spiking reports last October, centred on the main student cities of Aberdeen, Glasgow and Edinburgh.

Drink spiking is currently covered by two different laws in Scotland.

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But Holyrood's Education, Children and Young People Committee heard calls for specific legislation to help tackle the issue.

Concerns around spiking cases in Scotland have sparked calls for new legislation

Professor Sally Mapstone, vice convener of the representative body Universities Scotland, said: "I'm not a lawyer, but it does seem to me that it is a bit of a problem that we do not have a specific offence which targets spiking.

"If you look at the equivalent legislation in England, which has its own limitations because again, spiking is badged under the Sexual Offences Act in particular, but we don't in our legislation specifically refer to spiking, and I think at the bare minimum that needs to be looked at."

Ms Mapstone, who is principal and vice chancellor of the University of St Andrews, said a "specific reference to spiking in legislation really could seek to consciousness-raise and actually give us something more to focus on in that context".

Kate Wallace, chief executive of Victim Support Scotland, said looking at specific legislation would be "helpful".

She said stalking in Scotland is now covered by a separate offence "and that makes a massive difference for victims".

She added: "I agree with Sally, I think it should be examined further."

Ms Wallace said spiking is currently covered by two crimes, with one referring to "administering a substance for sexual purposes" and the other "drugging".

She said underreporting is "generally an issue".

Andrew Green, of the Scottish Beer and Pub Association, told MSPs he would support the move.

He said: "I think a specific offence would hopefully raise the confidence of anyone who wants to report this, that it will be taken seriously, and it aids the consistency of accuracy of reporting."

SNP MSP James Dornan raised concerns about the complexity of the legislation, questioning where the line would be drawn 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.

Earlier, the committee heard there was a "significant increase in reporting of spiking incidents" in October last year.

Superintendent Hilary Sloan of Police Scotland said: "The reporting spiked around the Halloween weekend, but what I am really pleased to say is that since then it has been on the downward trajectory."

She said incidents were most prevalent in Aberdeen, Glasgow and Edinburgh.

Ellen MacRae, president of the Edinburgh University Students' Association, said every student knows at least one person who has been spiked during a night out.

She said EUSA has had five drink spiking and two suspected spiking by injection enquiries since September 2021.

Police Scotland previously said it had found no evidence of cases in Scotland where someone has been spiked by injection.

Mike Grieve, chair of the Night Time Industries Association, said there were reports of needle spiking in a "handful of venues" but no evidence was found.

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