Portsmouth university students to boycott clubs next week after 'terrifying' reports of people getting spiked

‘TERRIFIED’ university students in Portsmouth are set to boycott clubs and events for one night next week amid reports of spiking incidents increasing nationwide, with some victims injected.

By Fiona Callingham
Saturday, 23rd October 2021, 4:55 am
Getty Images
Getty Images

The move comes as police reveal that there have been 18 incidents of drink spiking in Portsmouth reported to them since July.

City venues will be snubbed by those participating in the Girls Night In Pompey protest on October 27, which aims to raise awareness of spiking and sexual assault in bars and clubs.

It comes as part of a national movement after women reported being injected with dangerous substances during freshers’ week at the University of Nottingham. Nottinghamshire police say they are investigating 12 cases of someone being spiked with ‘a sharp object’, although none of the Portsmouth incidents reported involves injection.

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The organiser of the Girls Night In Pompey event, which has already amassed more than 800 supporters on Instagram, told The News: ‘Spiking has become a dangerous epidemic, students are terrified of clubbing since people have reported being injected.

‘Girls Night In is a nationwide campaign organised by young activists from all over the country. Upon learning that cases of spiking have doubled for the past three years, something had to be done.

‘The purpose of this campaign is to raise awareness of spiking and sexual assault in nightclubs and bars. We aim to do this by having a national "night in”, boycotting the clubs until they put preventative measures in to keep everyone safe. Despite the name, Girls Night In, the movement is aimed to promote safety for all genders.

‘The support for this campaign has been phenomenal. Nearly every student society is taking part. Students are planning alternate activities, such as movie nights and bowling, instead of attending Purple Wednesday.’

She added: ‘Since creating the account, a very considerable amount of people have come forward to say that they do not feel safe on a night out in Portsmouth or have been spiked themselves. This movement has three key demands. We are asking for regular and comprehensive training of all club staff, for all nightclubs to have a designated welfare officer and to have anti-spiking devices available for free. As well as operating a zero-tolerance policy on spiking. We have already received responses from Pryzm nightclub, who plan to implement more searches and give out anti-spiking devices at the bars.’

The Astoria club in Guildhall Walk has released a statement on social media saying that there will be increased numbers of entry searches, with staff particularly on the lookout for spiking ‘paraphernalia’ and drug-detection dogs used. The club also said that there would be undercover and visible security guards, and female staff on duty, and that anyone caught with spiking equipment would be reported to police.

Hampshire police said it had received 18 reports of drink spiking in the city since July.

Portsmouth chief inspector Rob Mitchell said: ‘Spiking someone’s drink is dangerous. It is a serious crime that can have devastating consequences and result in serious criminal charges. It carries a maximum ten year prison sentence and assault, rape and robbery carry additional sentences.

‘We have seen 18 reports of drinks being spiked in the city since July. None of these were spiking by injection and we have not seen any incidents of this type in the city or the force area.

‘Our licensing team regularly speaks to premises about how they safeguard their customers, and all venues have been offered welfare and vulnerability training. We encourage premises to search people on arrival and a number of venues also use wands or arches at their entrances. We will work with premises and our partners to make sure we are recording these incidents when they happen, supporting victims and investigating robustly where there is the evidence to do so.

‘Anyone who thinks that their drink has been spiked should report this immediately to both police and venue staff.

‘The quicker we know about it the better.

‘Portsmouth’s Safe Space is open at the Civic Offices in Guildhall Square from 10pm until 3am every Friday and Saturday for anyone feeling vulnerable or unwell, where trained professionals will be on hand to offer support, advice and medical care if needed. Always call 999 in an emergency.’

Following the recent reports Nottinghamshire Police said it had been made aware of similar incidents in the city over recent weeks that involved being ‘spiked physically.’

And the Home Secretary has now ordered police to urgently investigate the rise of spiking in nightclubs around the country.

Police and Crime Commissioner for Hampshire, Donna Jones, added: ‘I think there is underreporting of spiking because of the nature of the vulnerability of the victims; they are often students away from their families and in a new city or town which adds to their vulnerability. When alcohol has been voluntarily consumed it casts doubts in the victim’s mind about the reasons they blacked out, and how they ended up in certain locations.

‘Hampshire police work with the local universities, nightclubs and bars to prevent offending and investigate cases of suspected drink spiking.

‘I strongly encourage anyone who has concerns no matter how vague or incidental to report them to the police. Its only by knowing about locations and incidents that the police can investigate to prevent further harm.’

WHAT THE UNIVERSITY OF PORTSMOUTH SAYS

Portsmouth University’s students’ union is taking action to combat the threat of drink spiking.

The union’s welfare officer Natasha Layley said: ‘In response to the anti-spiking campaign, we are planning a film night for all students, in solidarity with the Girls Night In boycott to draw attention to night-time safety and a follow up Reclaim the Night event that will focus firmly on standing up to those who perpetrate crimes. Free anti-spiking resources will be available from the Union shop and at a Wednesday night drop in Guildhall Square.

‘We’ll continue to work with key people in the city, listen to our students and work together to find solutions so people can feel safe. It's important to focus on those who think it's OK to do this, to report them and to let them know that what they are doing and our worries about what they are doing can't and won't stop us from going about our lives.’

Bernie Topham, chief operating officer and deputy vice-chancellor of the University of Portsmouth said: ‘The safety, security and wellbeing of our students is, and always will be, our primary concern.

‘We have a number of safety initiatives which all students are made aware of to support them enjoying a safe night out that we continue to promote throughout the year. Our Report & Support tool enables students to report such issues so that we can better support them and develop proactive initiatives. We work closely with Portsmouth City Council, our local police service and our university police liaison officer is very proactive and keen to address issues like this.

‘We also have a long-standing arrangement and commitment with the NHS, Portsmouth City Council, police and South Central Ambulance Service to open Safe Space in Guildhall Square for students and city residents on various nights. It provides an all-round health and wellbeing service as well as a place for a short respite on a night out.

‘Our Students’ Union is continually and proactively working with their night time economy partner as well as the Police, the council and local charities to deliver campaigns and initiatives to promote student safety, including staying safe on a night out.’

A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron

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