Civil Liberties

Police will see increasing cases of alleged sexual assault in which spiking victims have little memory – the duty is on them to investigate

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5 min read time
04 Mar 2022

Waking up in strange surroundings in the early hours of the morning undressed on a sofa, unable to remember the events of the previous night out and with a fear she had been drugged and raped, a mother-of-three turned to Greater Manchester Police (GMP) for help.

She was distraught and in need of support and understanding in the greatest moment of despair in her life, but she got nothing.

In fact, the only thing police officers did was make her feel worthless, and that she in some way should shoulder some responsibility for the awful situation she had found herself in.

She told how a female officer – yes, a female officer – took her aside and advised her against pursuing a prosecution, suggesting it would be ‘over her family’s heads’ for a year’.

She also told how she was also advised to go with her husband and visit the man she feared had raped her, to “set the record straight”.

Yes, she had no memory, no witnesses, and at that time, no proof of what had happened other the feeling she had when waking with no recollection of the final hours of the previous night, being undressed, having ‘grab marks’ on her arms and being in “excruciating” pain when going to the toilet.

However, a lack of immediately available witnesses and evidence did not mean that she had not been the victim of the despicable crime she feared and alleged.

It was simply deplorable for police officers to assume anything other than that they were investigating a serious allegation of spiking and rape.

Case now being reviewed by force’s Professional Standards Branch

After complaining later the same day and demanding a full investigation, officers from the force returned to take full statements from the 29-year-old and arrange physical examinations, resulting in a 43-year-old man being arrested.

The case has also led to the force’s Professional Standards Branch conducting an investigation, which is still to be concluded.

In representing this lady against GMP, resulting in her being awarded a damages settlement, it has not failed to astound me each and every time I have reflected upon what happened. It is already difficult enough for victims of sexual assaults to come forward without them being faced with this kind of attitude and approach.

Sadly though, it is not an isolated incident.

A colleague of mine at Hudgell Solicitors recently handled a similar case against another force in which damages were paid to a woman who suffered a very similar experience.

And this is the third time in the space of two years in which we have secured damages for clients from GMP revolving around women reporting sexual assaults and rapes which have not been properly investigated.

Maybe senior officers at GMP should be asking themselves if the force has an endemic culture of dismissive attitudes to reports of sexual assaults.

Police forces will need to investigate many cases related to drug and drink spiking  

In this case, instead of doing the job of investigating allegations of the most sickening of crimes, officers initially dismissed it because it wasn’t a straight forward investigation.

They effectively suggested it wasn’t worth the woman’s – or their time – to investigate what would initially be a ‘his word against hers’ situation.

Yet sadly, police forces and officers up and down the country may well face increasing cases of this nature.

The Government’s home affairs select committee was warned in January of this year that drink and drug spiking has reached “epidemic” levels in the UK and is now so common it can happen to anyone.

Data released by 23 police forces under Freedom of Information laws showed there were 1,466 reports of spiking incidents last year, up from 722 in the year before, and research by the Alcohol Education Trust (AET) found that 15% of women and 7% of men had been spiked with alcohol or drugs.

With the increasing levels of drug and drink spiking, more victims of crime may sadly find themselves with little or no recollection of what happened to them, and where they have no obvious witnesses to call upon. Sadly, those who prey on vulnerable people know this all too well.

That does not mean that cases have to be closed, but actually places the focus on police to do more.

We live in a world where almost every move we make is captured on CCTV, in bars and restaurants to out on the streets. Nights out can be traced and tracked back.

Interestingly, our client has since been told from ongoing investigations that at one point of the night a member of staff at one bar had approached her, concerned for her welfare, as she seemed ‘very disorientated’

Evidence to pursue convictions may not be there in every case, but in many, with proper policing and real investigation, it will. It is simply not acceptable to not investigate at all.

All police forces need to evolve and police in relation to the times we live. Lessons certainly need to be learned from this case, and I hope there are no more women let down so badly like this.

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Police will see increasing cases of alleged sexual assault in which spiking victims have little memory – the duty is on them to investigate

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