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Demand for action on drink spiking ‘crisis’ in Cambridge

A drink spiking “crisis” in Cambridge has alarmed city councillors.

A spiking 'crisis' in Cambridge has alarmed city councillors (55378122)
A spiking 'crisis' in Cambridge has alarmed city councillors (55378122)

A Liberal Democrat motion was put to Cambridge City Council calling for the authority to “emphasise the need for urgent action” to tackle it. The motion called for a programme of education to be established as well as ensuring the council looked at further steps it can take to help support partners to prevent drink spiking.

It follows 43 reports of spiking made to Cambridgeshire police from January to October 2021, with one councillor saying that as many as 97 per cent of cases go unreported.

Deputy opposition leader Cllr Cheney Payne (Lib Dem, Castle) said: “We as leaders in our communities in our city need to make sure that the message is loud and clear that drink spiking is not welcome in Cambridge, it is not acceptable, and it is a crime.”

She continued: “It needs to be crystal clear that drink spiking is entirely upon the perpetrator and never the victim.”

The motion was amended by the ruling Labour group to include laying out a series of preventative measures to proactively tackle harassment and spiking in Cambridge. These included measures such as training for venue staff, looking into accreditation schemes, producing accessible information for venues, and exploring funding in the next budget cycle.

But the Liberal Democrats felt this broadened the issue away from the specific problem of spiking. Their motion was supported by Cambridge University Liberal Association.

Cllr Alice Gilderdale (Lab, Market), former Cambridge student and welfare officer at Cambridge SU said: “Drink spiking cannot be seen on its own without talking about the wider issue of misogyny, sexism and gender-based violence.

“Gender-based violence, which includes spiking, also includes many other examples of abuse, such as stalking, harassment and sexual abuse. Often, drink spiking is done with the aim to harass or abuse someone while they are in an incredibly vulnerable state, so these things mustn’t be taken as solely separate issues.”

She added: “I believe we should actively work towards creating safer spaces for all women at night, while also working hard to safeguard our residents against spiking and abuse.”

Councillors from across the political spectrum noted that spiking and harassment have become increasingly common, with most women having experienced aggressive behaviour not only out at night, but on public transport, on the street or in their homes.

Deputy leader Cllr Alex Collis (Lab, King’s Hedges), the executive councillor for open spaces, said: “None of us in the chamber tonight can be in any doubt about the seriousness of this issue. Whatever form it takes – whether that’s drink spiking, injection spiking, or the wider issues of harassment and sexual violence – to act in this way is not OK. We need, as a council, to send this message out very clearly.”

Despite the broad agreement across the chamber during the discussion, the motion was not passed.

The amended motion was passed by a vote of 21 in favour, with the nine Lib Dem members abstaining.

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