Northumbria Police area identified as one of UK's hotspots for needle spiking incidents

In the force area, which covers Tyneside, Wearside and Northumberland, there were 85 incidents of needle spiking reported since last September. Credit: ITV News

Part of the North East has been identified as a hotspot for so-called needle spiking incidents.

The Northumbria Police force area was mentioned in a report on the problem from a committee of MPs which was published on Tuesday 26 April.

Drink spiking - where people have drugs or alcohol put into their drink without their consent - has been going on for many years.

But the Home Affairs Committee report on spiking highlights what it calls a "new phenomenon" of needle spiking - where people are secretly injected with a substance - with often debilitating effects.

Though the North East does not feature in the top areas for overall spiking incidents, Northumbria Police was identified as one of several hotspots for the latest needle spiking trend.

In the force area, which covers Tyneside, Wearside and Northumberland, there were 85 incidents of needle spiking reported since last September.

Craig Campbell, from Darlington, has spoken out, after being injected at a bar in Newcastle a few months ago.

He said: "Until somebody's caught and somebody's sentenced with a huge sentence, and I hope somebody's sentenced, with a huge sentence, what I'm scared about is this happens to some young girl or some young guy, anyone, and they just don't wake up in the morning.

"People are going to die through this. Because it's a game they're playing, for no end goal, there's no end goal supposedly, I just can't get my head round it in this day and age, why people are doing that."

ITV News Tyne Tees first reported on Mr Campbell's story in the autumn.

MPs in Tuesday's report say it is difficult to get a full picture of the situation around spiking, whether by drink, drug or needle, because many incidents are not reported, and many victims are brushed off as having had one drink too many.

Northumbria Police said they take the issue "very seriously" and investigate all incidents to make sure the North East is a safe place to have a night out.

A spokesperson said: “As a force we take reports of this nature very seriously and have a robust system in place to ensure all incidents are investigated thoroughly.

“As part of Operation Cloak, we proactively police the night-time economy and have dedicated officers on patrol to ensure the North East remains a safe place to enjoy a night out.

“This ongoing activity takes place with the support of our partners from licensees to door staff and the Street Pastors.

“Anyone with concerns or who thinks they might have been a victim of spiking is asked to get in touch with us as soon as possible.”

Drink spiking has been going on for many years but there is a 'new phenomenon' of needle spiking. Credit: PA

On what more could be done to tackle the issue, Conservative MP for Stockton South, Matt Vickers, who is part of the Home Affairs Committee, said: "We've talked about creating a specific offence, so that police know what they're prosecuting, so that are people are aware of it as an issue.

"Raise some awareness, raise some education among young people who go out to these nightclubs and become victims, and moreover I think it's about helping the hospitality sector to learn the lessons of it, having an awareness of what goes on, and making sure that training's in place for bar staff and door staff."

The government said that they would carefully consider the MPs' recommendations and have asked national police bosses to urgently review the scale of the issue.

Safeguarding Minister Rachel Maclean said: "Spiking is a cowardly act which can ruin lives, so I welcome this report and will carefully consider every recommendation.

"The Home Secretary has confirmed the Home Office is looking at how best to prepare a specific criminal offence and has asked the National Police Chiefs' Council to urgently review the extent and scale of the issue.

"We have already reclassified GHB and introduced harsher sentences for anyone found with this spiking drug on them without cause. And are not afraid to legislate if it will help the police and courts better tackle the issue."