Britain’s biggest nightclub firm introduces drink covers and body searches after injection and spiking cases
Britain’s biggest operator of nightclubs is stepping up safety measures to tackle spiking, including the introduction of protective drink covers and full-body searches on entry.
The chief executive of Rekom UK told The Independent his group, which runs brands including Pryzm and Atik, were bringing in the measures in response to concerns over spiking.
A petition calling for compulsory searches at nightclubs has been signed by more than 100,000 people after a number of reported spikings by needle.
One student, who believes she was injected in a Nottingham club, said she felt "vulnerable" and "violated".
Nottinghamshire Police confirmed it was looking into reports of people being "spiked physically".
About 130,000 people have signed a petition asking the government to make searching guests a legal requirement.
The area with the highest number of signatures is Nottingham, particularly the parts of the city popular with students.
Hannah Thomson, 24, from Glasgow, said she set up the petition after seeing a report on social media about a woman being injected with a needle in Edinburgh and then seeing stories elsewhere.
"The response has been so much bigger than I thought," she said. "And we've done it, just through the power of young girls."
She said she thought searches could be done with metal detectors or pat-downs, rather than full airport-style security.
"I would much rather have a pat down than a needle in the back," she added.
One woman who believes she was spiked with a needle is Sarah Buckle.
She was on a night out in Nottingham on 28 September when she suddenly became ill.
The University of Nottingham student said: "One moment I was talking fine, and then I couldn't get my words out.
"They took me to sit down but then I couldn't get up again."
She said she remembered very little up until the next morning, when she found herself in a hospital bed.
The 19-year-old noticed a small pin prick on her hand, which later developed bruises and began to throb.
"I feel violated," she said. "I've had too much to drink before and this was completely different.
"To be in hospital for 10 hours, and to have no recollection of anything for that long, is absolutely crazy.
"I'm confused by why this is going on, it's terrifying. You can cover your drinks but how are you going to stop someone stabbing you?"
'Rage, love and solidarity'
Another 19-year-old student, Zara Owen, told the BBC she blacked out shortly after arriving at a club in Nottingham and later discovered a pin prick in her leg.
She believes she was spiked through an injection.
Groups from more than 30 universities around the UK have joined an online campaign calling for the boycott of nightclubs.
Campaigners say they are seeking "tangible" changes to make night-time venues safer, such as covers or stoppers for drinks and better training for staff.
Larissa Kennedy, president of the National Union of Students (NUS), said: "It's absolutely disgusting that in the past few days a number of students have reported instances of women being spiked on nights out.
"My rage, love and solidarity goes out to all those who have been impacted."
A University of Nottingham spokesperson added: "We are working closely with Nottinghamshire Police and the city's nightlife venues to monitor, review and learn from incidents and experiences in the city centre.
"We have contacted them about the specific concerns raised and will continue to liaise with them."
Nadia Whittome, Labour MP for Nottingham East, said she had been contacted by a number of constituents who were "terrified of going out", including one woman who suspects she was injected.
She called for quicker gathering of evidence after a suspected spiking, as well as long and short-term measures to prevent it happening.
"It's very difficult to know what the solutions are," she said. "We have an idea of what the solutions aren't.
"After Sarah Everard in particular, trust in police is at an all-time low, it's been shattered. Police officers in clubs is not going to reassure women."
Possible sexual motive
Yvette Cooper, chair of the Home Affairs Select Committee, asked a police chief on Wednesday about the scale of the problem.
Sarah Crew, the temporary Chief Constable of Avon and Somerset Police - who also has a role on the National Police Chief's Council - said she only became aware of spiking by injection "this morning".
"I can see there are a number of police forces investigating them," she said. "I think it's a fair assumption there may be a sexual motive in those, but there isn't an indication."
Ms Cooper said she had spoken to someone who was in A&E last night, believing she had been spiked with a needle.
She added Home Secretary Priti Patel
had asked for a report.
Supt Kathryn Craner, from Nottinghamshire Police, said the force was investigating an increase in reports of drinks being spiked in the city.
She added: "We've also received a small number that have been associated with pain or a mark on part of their body or a scratching sensation, as though they have been physically spiked.
"We are taking these reports really seriously and have dedicated resources to it to understand what is happening."
The force said a 20-year-old man had been arrested "on suspicion of possession of class A and class B and cause [to] administer poison or noxious thing with intent to injure, aggrieve and annoy" following an incident in Lower Parliament Street on 16 October.
The man has now been released on bail.