'I was spiked,' says Surrey Police and Crime Commissioner

By Emily Coady Stemp   |   Local Democracy Reporter   |
Tuesday 26th October 2021 9:09 am
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Lisa Townsend, Surrey police and crime commissioner ()

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SURREY’S Police and Crime Commissioner has revealed she was spiked during a night out with friends and when she went back to the nightclub staff told her it “couldn’t possibly have happened there”.

Lisa Townsend, who was elected in May, told the Local Democracy Reporting Service she did not think to report the incident at the time and only now realises the importance of reporting these crimes to the police.

She said she was spiked on a night out with friends in Sheffield when she was around 20 or 21 years old. Her friends got her home safely, but she said she has no memories of getting home.

At a time of heightened focus on the risks of spiking, and after reports of injection spiking, including of one student from Surrey in Nottingham, the commissioner said she now understands that reporting this type of crime can help police to build up a picture of what is happening.

She said: “It happened to me years ago. And I didn’t report it because why would you? In a weird way, at the time, I just sort of thought, I didn’t appreciate entirely […] what had happened.

“When I went back to the club a few days later to say this happened, they said: ‘Oh, it can’t have happened in this club, because we don’t have that kind here.’

Mrs Townsend said she knew that it must have happened there because everywhere else that evening she had been drinking out of a bottle of water and that was the only venue she’d had alcohol. She claims the club told her that it must have been a bad batch of vodka.

She said: “I thought it was absolutely terrifying that they were more prepared to admit to a bad batch of vodka, than the fact that somebody might have spiked my drink. And I pointed out to them that I didn’t drink vodka. So it couldn’t have been that.”

She said that she was never a big drinker at university.

She said: “I was very lucky, I was with friends in a bar in Sheffield. I have no recollection of getting home but they got me home.

“None of us were particularly shocked. We’d all heard of it happening. We’d all known people it had happened to. It was almost, at some point, it will be one of us.

“I think the surprise was more that it could have happened to me and I was the person who didn’t really drink. I wish I could say everybody was shocked but there was no sense of shock at all.”

She joined Surrey Police in calling for anyone who had been spiked to come forward and report it to police to help build a picture of what is happening in pubs and clubs across the county and UK.

She said: “It’s no wonder that people don’t report it. But what I would say is that, when you report it, you start to build a picture, and you start to get a pattern of places it may or may not be happening.

“And then whether it’s clubs and bars, or local town centres or local nightlife economies, the police can start to be a bit more proactive about it.”

She said that while police have a role in tackling this issue, there is a wider cultural change that also needs to happen.

She said: “It starts way before you get to the club. I say to male friends and to men, it starts at a really low level, it starts with that comment or something that you’re not comfortable about, and you just brush off.

“Or you don’t even think to be uncomfortable about it. And that’s where you need to cut it out. That’s where you need to say to your friend or your brother or whoever it is, that’s not actually acceptable.”

She added: “It has to be about prevention. It has to be about changing culture. We are not going to police our way out of this problem in the same way that we’re not going to police our way out of violence against women and girls.

“It has got to be about a cultural change as much as anything. I think the police have an enormous role to play in that.

“As Police and Crime Commissioner, there’s a lot that my office can do in terms of education. [We are] already spending a lot of time in schools, talking to kids, working with our youth enforcement teams across the county and going into schools. But it has to be about that wider cultural change.”

Last week, The National Police Chiefs’ Council confirmed there have been almost 200 confirmed reports of drink spiking in September and October across various parts of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, plus over 20 reports of some form of injection.

Surrey Police confirmed it has received no reports of injection spiking, as of last Friday (October 22).

The force has been approached for comment on how many reports of spiking it has received over the last two months.

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