Last night, Alex Sobel MP and Mayor Tracy Brabin hosted an online Safe Nightlife Summit, aimed at bringing together leaders to tackle a Speight of spiking cases in the city.
Chaired by West Yorkshire’s Deputy Mayor for Police and Crime, Alison Lowe, the meeting was attended by those with lived experience, campaigners, bar and nightclub managers, Hilary Benn MP, security firms, universities, the Police and Leeds City Council.
Outcomes discussed at the meeting were the planned relaunch and refunding of Ask for Angela due later this month, Operation Drift Mill set up by West Yorkshire Police to respond specifically to incidents of spiking in Leeds and a new nightlife strategy to be set up with the agencies and businesses who attended the meeting.
Nightlife Safety on a national scale will be addressed in Parliament on Monday.
Welcoming people to the meeting Alex Sobel said “What we have got this evening are all the senior stakeholders in the room and most importantly those voices with lived experience. I hope that this evening we can start to work together and support each other to solve what has become really troubling incidents of spiking.”
Hilary Benn MP also laid out the issues saying, “I want to thank Tracy and Alex for organising tonight’s event. I too have had emails from constituents who are concerned about spiking, the spiking that’s gone on sadly for quite some time, and the more recent incidents in Leeds and other parts of the country where injection appears to be involved. It is extremely concerning; it is illegal behaviour. The question is what practical steps can be taken to make it much safer for those who want to enjoy a night out to prevent someone with malign intent wishing to commit a criminal offence against them.”
Izzy Broadhurst, co-founder of Girl’s night in said, “it’s really been encouraging seeing the club venues engage with us and want to work with us to combat this problem. It has been an issue that has gone on for so long and now, finally, it has started to be taken a bit more seriously. We’ve had so many stories, we’ve had so many people come to us telling us the awful things that have happened to them in Leeds in just the last few weeks. We need to have change now and this is the moment to do that.”
Alison Lowe called for solutions saying, “Everyone would agree that prevention is better than cure. Tonight is about getting ideas to protect people now. Businesses are desperate to be supported with the right solutions, and women and girls are desperate to find out whether it is safe for them to go out. This is beyond policing, there is a role for everyone to play.”
The message from the hospitality businesses in attendance was that they needed more funding both for anti-spiking preventative measures and for testing measures as Graham Higgins from Beaverworks in Leeds.
“If I open for a large student night, we’ll get more than 2000 people, out of that I’d be really surprised, whether anyone has been spiked or not, if I don’t get at least one or two reports of potential spiking.”
“If someone thinks they’ve been spiked, they’ll either go to accident and emergency, where quite often they are delayed too long before they get a drugs test done or they’ll just go home, because of course, they’re distressed, they don’t want to stay there sitting in our first aid room. If we can get attest done there and then, as quickly as possible, we then have a chance to get hard evidence as to what’s actually happening.”
“We do occasionally take drugs off people and if one of them is a drug that people are using, I want to know which one it is … so that if I get somebody with that drug on them, instead of just looking at them as someone who might have had a small amount of drug to use themselves inside a nightclub, if they were going to use that to drop in somebody’s drink that’s a completely different matter.”
Senior officers from West Yorkshire Police, who had met the night before the summit, described a “focused, joined-up approach for West Yorkshire.” They said they had “key lines of enquiry ongoing” and have “made a number of arrests.” They described an improving working relationship with door staff, helping them to identify problems, checking floors for evidence and creating quiet spaces. They did agree that “there needs to be a bit more work” with training and said that they “do accept” that real cases have been “dismissed as simple drunkenness.”
Emmerline Irving, Senior Manager for Improving Public Health in West Yorkshire, is setting up a nightlife strategy for the region, working with the Violence Reduction Unit and the Integrated Care System. She called on all attendees to join in that effort and collated contacts throughout the meeting.
Speaking on the chat at the end of the meeting Mayor Tracy Brabin thanked the contributors. She said “There’s been some fantastic ideas and suggestions here. Thank you all. We are coming to the end of our consultation on the police and crime plan and these suggestions will help identify priorities and where I can help and support women to feel safe on nights out. It also gives me more information to help my thinking about bringing in a Night Tzar.”
There are plans for a follow up meeting, to review funding, cases and strategies, to take place in the new year.