On December 18, 2023, the British government announced that it intended to introduce an amendment to the Criminal Justice Bill that is applicable to England and Wales to provide for a stand-alone offense of spiking. Spiking occurs where a substance is administered to a person without their knowledge or consent. It most commonly happens when an individual adds alcohol or drugs to another person’s drink without their consent, but it can also occur through injecting a person with drugs or other substances. The police in England and Wales reported that 6,732 reports of spiking were made between May 2022 to April 2023.
While spiking is already illegal, it is covered by a range of general offenses, including administering “any poison or other noxious thing” under the Offences Against the Person Act 1861, and administering a substance without intent under the Sexual Offences Act 2003. The government noted that while the “archaic” language of the provisions is used to prosecute spiking as a crime, the offences “may not readily be identifiable as offences that ‘capture’ spiking behaviour,” which has led people not to report these crimes.
The amendment, introduced on December 20, 2023, intends to modernize the law and clarify beyond any doubt that spiking is illegal. The aim is “to provide a clear, unequivocal definition of what spiking is” to provide both clarity to and confidence in the law. The amendment is one clause in length and reads:
(1) A person (“P”) commits an offence if P intentionally administers a substance to, or causes a substance to be taken by, another person—
(2) A person who commits an offence under this section is liable—
Thus, if the amendment is enacted, the maximum penalty for spiking, on conviction on indictment, would be five years’ imprisonment.
In addition to the stand-alone offense, the government is introducing several measures to help tackle spiking, including more training for door staff, education for young people to raise awareness about the threat, an anonymous online reporting tool, updating statutory guidance to include spiking, and investing in research into self-testing kits. Following the success of coordinated action in tackling other crimes, the police are also coordinating action “during key weeks of the year.”
The Criminal Justice Bill was introduced in the House of Commons on November 14, 2023. The bill sets forth a number of police powers, new offenses, and court powers that aim to help increase safety in the English and Wales community and meet the government’s zero-tolerance approach to crime and antisocial behavior.
Clare Feikert-Ahalt, Law Library of Congress
February 6, 2024
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