Claims of drink and needle spiking at top Scottish university as police investigate incidents

Students at one of Scotland’s top universities have claimed they have been victims of spiking incidents while attending balls and parties.

By Alexandra Upton and Jane Bradley
Tuesday, 18th January 2022, 10:15 am

Students at the University of St Andrews in Fife have claimed a spate of drink spikings at social events since the start of the academic year in September, while some also believe they have been injected with needles following an increase in similar incidents across the UK.

Police Scotland said it is still investigating seven incidents – all relating to alleged drink spiking.

The university’s Student Union said it had introduced measures to help tackle the problem and warned anyone found spiking on their premises would be banned for life.

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Students at the University of St Andrews have claimed there has been a spate of drink and needle spikings. Picture: AFP via Getty Images

Since September, reports of drink-spiking, as well as the advent of needle-spiking, have been surging across the UK.

In October, a week-long, nation-wide boycott of nightclubs dubbed the “Girls Night In” campaign saw protesters calling for action over the issue. A petition to make it a legal requirement for all nightclubs to “thoroughly search guests on entry” has garnered 173,555 signatures.

One female student said her flatmate had been spiked by a needle on a night out at the Student Union.

“My flatmate came back home in an absolute state, but had only had one drink,” she said.

“At first we brushed it off, but after passing out for hours she woke to find an odd bruise on her arm. On closer inspection, it had a puncture mark in the middle.

"She went to the hospital, scared it could have been a dirty needle, but she was told there was nothing they could do once the drug was out of her system.”

Students at the university, which was this year named top in the UK in the Sunday Times Good University Guide and is the alma mater of Prince William, have also claimed there has been a rise in substances being put into drinks on nights out.

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Lauren Gravener, one of a number of women who reported having her drink spiked at the Welly Ball – an annual charity event held on the outskirts of St Andrews in November – said she was so severely incapacitated after her spiking, she was unable to return home that night.

She said: “I got spiked a few weeks ago at the Welly Ball and was consequently reported as a missing person until I was found early that morning. I reported it to the police, who said that they had never encountered a case of spiking in Fife in their 12 years of police work.

“I know that at the time, which was two days after the Welly Ball, that two others had gone to the police saying they believed they had been spiked as well.”

Another woman said: “After a normal number of drinks over a couple of hours, I was approached by a few guys at the bar. After getting a bad vibe from them and refusing a drink, I went home shortly after, while feeling suddenly extremely disoriented, dizzy, sleepy, and nauseated, and soon got violently ill.”

One student said she had had to help a friend after her drink was spiked at the university’s Opening Ball.

She said: “Her drink was sitting on the bar for just a couple minutes and [she was] standing next to it. I didn’t recognise what was happening to her as being drugged, and neither did the workers who were helping me clean her up, but in hindsight it was totally clear that’s what had happened.”

Anna-Ruth Cockerham, director of wellbeing at the St Andrews Students' Association, said the union has introduced measures to help keep students safe on nights out.

The measures include random bag searches, increased training for security, test strips for both drinks and urine available upon request to anyone who believes they may have been spiked, and increased signage throughout union venues to highlight the prevalence of spiking and means of prevention.

She said: “The Students’ Association has taken a range of measures to tackle spiking and ensure that our students can have a safe night out.

“The responsibility for spiking lies solely with the perpetrators and anyone found spiking on our premises will be banned from our premises for life and referred to the university conduct officer and the police.”

Professor Clare Peddie, vice-principal for education at St Andrews University, said: “We take this issue extremely seriously. It’s clear from evidence given to the Home Affairs Committee this week that this is a deeply worrying and apparently widespread problem which generates a significant concern among students here and at universities around the country.

"We are working very closely with our Students’ Association and other student groups and have implemented practical measures to protect our students and help them to feel more secure, including ensuring that our student services critical responders are equipped with test strips.

"We have also held helpful discussions at a senior level with Police Scotland and continue to work closely with our community police officers on steps to support prevention, evidence gathering and detection.”

A Police Scotland spokesperson said: "Between Saturday, October 16 and Thursday, November 18 2021, 11 people reported to police that they believed their drinks had been spiked whilst out socialising in St Andrews. Of those reports, three were withdrawn by the complainers, and following investigation, one has been concluded as no criminality had taken place.

“Enquiries are ongoing in to the remaining seven reports.”

The spokesperson added there had been no further reports of spiking since November 18.

Assistant Chief Constable Gary Ritchie said: “Police Scotland is working with a range of partners, both locally and nationally, to ensure licensed premises are safe spaces for all, through the continued delivery of ByStander Awareness training.

"We are also working in partnership with other emergency services, student bodies, universities/colleges and third-sector organisations to raise awareness and provide support for anyone affected.”

He added: "We would encourage anyone who believes they have had their drink spiked or been assaulted in this way to contact Police Scotland on 101 or in an emergency 999”.

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