Drink Spiking and What We Do

Over the past couple of weeks, we’ve seen a number of posts on social media referring to incidents of spiking at Students’ Union club nights. Firstly, we want to reiterate our point of view on drink spiking and our approach to it.

Drink spiking is an abhorrent and malicious criminal act and we have a zero tolerance policy on the possession of any categorised, banned or restricted substances within our venues and commercial premises.

That said, actions speak louder than words. This year we have worked closely with Surrey Police to conduct a number of operations on campus, utilising sniffer dogs, drug itemisers – portable machines that test for drugs – and elevated searches in a bid to show those intent on causing harm of our close relationship with law enforcement.

Part of this partnership includes the sharing of surveillance recordings where evidence of an incident has been uncovered by our team, and we will always push for a prosecution.

CCTV and Surveillance

We often see mention of CCTV (covered by our Surveillance Systems Policy) in posts online which contain incorrect or misleading information. This is going to get a little technical with regards to jargon but it is key we clear things up. Due to General Data Protection Regulations we cannot share any footage that has not come via a data subject access request from either a data subject (i.e the person whose image has been recorded), law enforcement agencies (where the images recorded would assist in a criminal enquiry) or prosecution agencies.

In the majority of instances related to drink spiking, the access request would likely fall under the data subject area. Unfortunately, due to the nature of our events, it is unlikely that the footage will ever have captured just the individual data subject in frame and should the personal data of any other individual be contained in the data then access will not be permitted.

That doesn’t mean that we can’t review footage ourselves. We keep recorded data for 31 days and a small group of our management team can review footage if they are alerted to a potential incident that has occurred. Just to be clear, no other members of staff can view the footage, the recorded data can only be viewed by the line manager in that area, a senior manager or an investigating manager.

Incident Reporting

As mentioned above, in order to investigate an incident we need to be aware that one has occurred. This year we have only had two individuals come forward and speak to us about a potential spiking incident, while a small number have been reported to us through the University’s Student Wellbeing team. We can only take proper action and fully understand the extent of the problem based on reports submitted by students who have been directly affected.

In order to report a potential incident of spiking please email venues@su.rhul.ac.uk and include as much detail as possible. It’s likely that we’ll want to speak with you in person to understand your case more clearly, especially your movements within our venues during the evening, as this will allow us to quickly find surveillance footage related to you specifically, allowing subsequent action to be taken.

What To Do If You Suspect You’ve Been Spiked

If on a night out in one of our venues you suspect you or a friend has been spiked, please inform a member of our security/bar team who will be able to assist you. Alongside this, it may be necessary to go to the nearest A&E department which is located at St Peter’s Hospital in Chertsey.

If you do attend hospital, please ask for a record of what they found in your system. This will ensure there is evidence should we be able to identify the individual responsible, as well as providing us with a better understanding of the causes of incidents. This will allow us to modify the tactics we put in place to make our venues a hostile environment for this type of behaviour.

If after a night out you feel unwell and believe you have been spiked, please contact either the Health Centre (or your local GP) or NHS Advice (call 111) immediately. Remember to also report your incident to us using the email venues@su.rhul.ac.uk.

Where It Occurs

Simply put, it can occur anywhere. It can be in a venue when you put your drink down on the side for a moment, it can be at pre-drinks before heading out, or it could be in the local pub. There’s also a wide range of ways a drink can be spiked, from topping drinks up with alcohol (the most common substance used to spike drinks) through to substances often referred to as date rape drugs such as GHB (gamma-hydroxybutyrate), GBL (gamma-butyrolactone), Rohypnol, Valium, Ketamine and more.

Often there’s no noticeable taste or smell when any of these are added to drinks, so it’s incredibly important to always be aware of your drink and you should also take a number of steps* which may help prevent drink spiking:

  • Never leave your drink unattended, and keep an eye on your friends' drinks.
  • Don't accept a drink from someone you don't know.
  • Consider sticking to bottled drinks and avoiding punch bowls or jugs of cocktails.
  • Don't give out your address to someone you have just met.
  • If you think your drink's been tampered with, don't drink it – tell a trusted friend or relative immediately.
  • Before going out, let someone know where you're going and what time you expect to be home.
  • Make plans for your journey home.
  • Avoid taking expensive equipment with you or anything that could be a target for thieves.
*Source: NHS

What’s Next?

Based on the feedback we’ve received through different channels, we’re reviewing our staff training over the summer and looking at ways to make it easier for you to access products such as Spikeys, which are small plastic stoppers that go in the top of bottles. The biggest challenge we face in this area is the large number of spirit mixers we serve where there is no ready-made solution such as Spikeys.

We have a number of potential ideas around how we can raise awareness of the danger of spiking in relation to these drinks, which we’ll look to deploy in the new academic year. Alongside this, we’re continually looking at our security and searching policy, and the different deterrents that can be put in place to stop offenders.

We’ll also be re-launching our Spiked campaign in September, and as part of this we will be distributing over 3500 flyers direct to new starters around how to stay safe on nights out while at Royal Holloway. Overall we continue to believe that our venues are safe, but we’re also aware that belief is not enough. We’ll continue to do our utmost to put a stop to spiking on campus, but we’ll need your help if we’re to be successful.

Before all of this, we still have a number of nights left of Summer Term. At Summer Ball we will be operating a heightened security policy including bag and body searches, so please bear with us if it takes a little longer to access the venue than usual. We also ask that you be vigilant and report anything suspicious to our security teams on the night of the event.