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Strong link revealed between drink spiking and sexual assault

Media Release

12 November 2004

Media release from Minister for Justice and Customs, Senator the Hon Chris Ellison

Around one-third of drink spiking incidents resulted in sexual assault and one in twenty end in robbery, according to the first comprehensive report on drink spiking in Australia.

Launching the Australian Institute of Criminology (AIC) report National Project on Drink Spiking: Investigating the nature and extent of drink spiking in Australia at the Ministerial Council on Drug Strategy (MCDS) in Brisbane today, Senator Ellison said that drink spiking had serious and severe consequences including physical and emotional harm.

Drink spiking occurs where drugs and/or alcohol are added to a drink without the consent of the person consuming that drink.

"The findings of this report are a sobering reminder for all Australians that drink spiking is not a harmless prank or a benign act of mischief," Senator Ellison said.

"Drink spiking is an insidious act which can turn a good night out into a nightmare, particularly for young women given four out of five victims are female," he said.

"It is of particular concern to the Australian Government that according to this report, drink spiking is heavily under-reported to police and therefore few offenders are successfully prosecuted."

Senator Ellison said MCDS would immediately move to examine ways in which the collection of data and the prosecution of drink spiking offenders could be improved.

"I will also ask government officials across jurisdictions to closely scrutinise ways in which legislation could be improved and strengthened across Australia to crack down on this crime."

The report is based on data taken from police, sexual assault agencies, hospitals, forensic scientists as well as a drink spiking hotline operated by the AIC between November and December 2003 which took more than 200 calls.

"The report finds that while suspected incidents of drink spiking happen frequently enough to merit concern, there is no single ‘typical’ incident of drink spiking," Senator Ellison said.

"In fact, analysis of data shows that two-thirds of the incidents occurred in licensed premises.

"A major concern is the link to violent acts and while one-third of these incidents lead to sexual assault, less than one-sixth of suspected drink spiking sexual assaults are actually reported to police.

"Alcohol dominates reported cases of victimisation, with forensic evidence not supporting the claim that there is a strong prevalence of illicit drugs such as gammahydroxybutyrate (GHB) and ketamine in drink spiking incidents.

"The findings of this report clearly show that more people need to be made aware of drink spiking and how it can be avoided. The report also recommends efforts to improve recording and coordination practices between those who are involved in addressing the problem of drink spiking."

The report was produced under the Ministerial Council on Drug Strategy and endorsed today at a national meeting of health and police ministers in Brisbane. It is available from the Australian Institute of Criminology website at www.aic.gov.au.