Injection spiking fears: London university brings in ‘metal detectors’ at clubs after drink spiking reports

Students have told LondonWorld that drink spiking is “on the rise” at their campus and has increased “drastically”.

A London students’ union has introduced “bag searches and metal detectors” after reports of women being spiked via needles in clubs across the UK.

Royal Holloway University of London (RHUL) students’ union - which operates on-campus clubs - has upped safety measures in response to claims from students of a rise in drink spiking.

One RHUL student involved in the national campaign to boycott clubs in the wake of the reports said the risks left her “terrified to go out”.

The students’ union president confirmed the venues had “increased security protocols” and that “every individual entering our nightclub is searched before entry”.

Henn Warwick, RHUL SU president, said: “The recent rise in reports of spiking are extremely worrying, and we recognise the distress and anxiety it has caused.

“We need to remain vigilant and continue to make our venues as safe as possible.

“We have increased security protocols so that every individual entering our nightclub is searched before entry.

“We are also taking a number of proactive measures, including offering students plastic anti-spiking bottle stoppers whenever they purchase a bottled beverage, the trialling of protective drinks covers and making drug testing kits more available.”

Stock image of a needle

Students are planning a club boycott after several women in UK cities reported being spiked by injection, after allegedly blacking out and waking up with puncture marks to their skin.

This has sparked police investigations in Nottingham, with victims fearing contracting HIV.

The campaign, originally named Girls Night In, was launched by students at the University of Edinburgh.

It is now known as the Night In campaign and has spread nationwide, with students calling for a boycott of venues and urging them to do more to tackle risks to women’s safety.

The third year RHUL student also claimed drink spiking is “on the rise” at her campus and has increased “drastically”, although she is not aware of any instances of spiking via needle.

She said: “It made me feel quite angry and scared as I knew spiking was on the rise and happening a lot more.

“It’s happening a lot more at my university as well and to people I know.

Royal Holloway University of London, Egham

“Luckily I’ve never been spiked, but when I found out some of my friends were getting their drinks spiked, I got very upset and also stopped going out because it terrified me.”

The marketing student, who wishes to remain anonymous, founded the Instagram page @rhulnightin to call for a boycott of the campus nightclubs on Wednesday, October 27, and said students at her university have come forward to share their accounts of being spiked.

She said: “People have come forward [to the page] saying they’ve been spiked. The volume has increased drastically since university started six weeks ago.”

Security measures have now been tightened in the two on-campus clubs, the Students’ Union (SU) and Medicine, with revelers now subject to bag searches and metal detectors.

The student added: “Before this all happened, you could walk into the SU without getting a bag checked but now the security is very high with bag checks and metal detecting wands.”

The Night In campaign, which changed its name after criticism for a lack of inclusivity, has sprung up in cities from Leeds, Swansea, and Aberdeen, to Bristol, Durham and Exeter.

While a petition urging the government to make it a legal requirement for nightclubs to thoroughly search guests on entry has more than 168,000 signatures.

Night In campaigners are calling for active bystander training for all staff, a designated welfare officer in every club, anti-spiking devices, and zero-tolerance policies on spiking.

LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 24: A long queue of club-goers waiting to get in to Heaven nightclub on July 24, 2021 in London, England (Photo by Rob Pinney/Getty Images)

“I do think it is very frustrating [that the onus is on girls], as it should be men who are staying at home,” the student said.

“But our goal is to get the venues to make sure that staff get trained well and venues have anti spiking measures in place.”

Nan Fletcher-Lloyd, a student at Imperial College London (ICL) described the trend of injection spiking as “alarming, dangerous and life-threatening”.

She said: “Nighttime venues often feel both unsafe and inaccessible.

“Visiting these spaces usually means dealing with unwanted sexual advances and a vitriol of verbal and physical abuse.

Imperial College London

“There is no support, only the implication that this behaviour is something I should expect to be on the receiving end of.

“Victim-blaming rhetoric has shifted accountability away from the perpetrators in such a way that they no longer feel they have to worry about getting caught.”

As the co-founder of ICUsToo, a student-led campaign group tackling sexual harassment, sexual violence, and domestic abuse, she “wholeheartedly” supports the boycott.

Nan added: “As a society, we must place greater focus on the perpetrators of these crimes.

“There are several mechanisms by which perpetrators can be caught before, during, and after a crime is committed, and suggestions of safeguarding should target all possibilities.

“These include pat downs before entry, use of CCTV, testing strips, clear procedures on seeking help, quick mechanisms of reporting, and increased training for staff and security.”

Nathalie Podder, deputy president of welfare at Imperial College London

However, Nathalie Podder, ICL SU deputy welfare president said while she was “disturbed” both by reports of increased spiking and use of needles, such incidents were rare.

“We haven’t received any reports from our students of injection spiking in our venues but it’s definitely something that’s on our radar,” she said.

“Our nighttime events are all ticketed and only our members and students are allowed to enter our venues. We have security at the entrance who do bag checks on the door.”

But she stressed that the “most common” forms of spiking included ‘doubling up’ on drinks - or giving someone more alcohol than they’d asked for - or using recreational drugs.

She said: “There are two years of students that haven’t experienced nightlife in a university setting as they have been impacted by the pandemic.

“I’ve also spoken to our managing director of the union who said that when a spiking report is made the most common occurrence is the lack of experience of how alcohol can affect you.

“This is especially the case with pre-drinking culture, as drinks are so expensive.

“Students might drink lots and lots and not feel a thing, and then arrive at the venue and have it hit them all at once which can lead to them feeling that they’ve had a drink tampered with.

“The most common form of spiking is doubling up. Spiking with drugs is the least common form - and that it most often involves recreational drug use within a group of friends.”

Nathalie said the union is considering introducing eco-friendly drink covers and testing strips which would be administered by a trained member of staff within the venue.

A National Union of Students (NUS) spokesperson said: “It’s absolutely disgusting that a number of students have reported instances of women being spiked by injections.

“We need to see a culture shift across society to ultimately end sexual and gendered violence”.

RHUL were contacted for comment but directed LondonWorld to RHUL SU.