Home Secretary James Cleverly joked about drugging wife hours after announcing spiking laws

Mr Cleverly's comments have been criticised by spiking victims groups, as ITV News' Ellie Pitt reports

Home Secretary James Cleverly has apologised for reportedly making an "ironic joke" about spiking his wife's drink with a date rape drug.

Speaking to female guests at a Downing Street reception, Mr Cleverly said "a little bit of Rohypnol in her drink every night" was "not really illegal if it's only a little bit", the Sunday Mirror reported.

The Home secretary's unguarded remarks came just hours after his Home Office announced plans to crack down on spiking.

Mr Cleverly also laughed that the secret to a long marriage was ensuring your spouse was “someone who is always mildly sedated so she can never realise there are better men out there”.

Allies of Mr Cleverly said his comments were made in a private setting but he recognises they were inappropriate and has apologised.

James Cleverly said his comments were intended as an "ironic joke". Credit: PA

Mr Cleverly has previously described tackling violence against women and girls as a “personal priority” and called spiking a “perverse” crime.

A spokesman for the Home secretary said: “In what was always understood as a private conversation, James, the Home Secretary, tackling spiking made what was clearly meant to be an ironic joke – for which he apologises.”

The Home secretary met his wife Susie at university and the couple have two children.

Conversations at Downing Street receptions are usually understood to be “off the record”, but the Sunday Mirror decided to break that convention because of Mr Cleverly’s position and the subject matter.

Senior Labour figures criticised Mr Cleverly’s “appalling” comments.

Alex Davies-Jones, shadow minister for domestic violence and safeguarding, said: “‘It was a joke’ is the most tired excuse in the book and no one is buying it.

“If the Home secretary is serious about tackling spiking, and violence against women and girls, then that requires a full cultural change. The ‘banter’ needs to stop and it has to start at the top.”

Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said: “Spiking is a disturbing and serious crime which is having a devastating impact on young women’s lives. It is truly unbelievable that the Home Secretary made such appalling jokes on the very same day the Government announced new policy on spiking.

“It suggests that despite being the Cabinet minister ultimately responsible for tackling violence against women and girls he doesn’t get how serious this is. Victims will understandably be questioning if they can trust him to take this vile crime seriously.”

Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper. Credit: PA

Ministers have pledged to modernise the language used in legislation to make clear spiking is a crime and announced a series of other measures as part of a crackdown.

But they stopped short of making spiking – when someone puts drugs into another’s drink or directly into their body without their knowledge or consent – a specific offence.

Between May 2022 and April 2023, there were 6,732 reports of spiking in England and Wales – including 957 reported incidents of needle spiking.

On average police receive 561 reports of spiking a month, with the majority being made by women typically after incidents in or near bars and nightclubs, according to a Home Office report.

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