Evil drink spikers target thousands
Drink spiking has soared to record levels, with some NSW hospitals reporting a 50% increase in the number of overdoses involving date-rape drugs.
Despite the alarming figures, an investigation by The Daily Telegraph has revealed the Government ignored calls for action from its own advisory body.
The crisis comes as cases including the cruise ship death of mother-of-three Dianne Brimble and the jailing of two drink spikers shock the nation.
Predators are using drug cocktails – some illegal, others legal prescription drugs – to prey on victims, and police want tougher laws to fight the crisis.
Drugs used to spike drinks are being sold for as little as $30 on Sydney streets.A government working party recommended to the NSW Attorney-General's department that laws involving drink spiking be given a massive overhaul, but Cabinet is yet to act.
Police are now at a stalemate, unable to deal efficiently with criminals until legislation is tightened to include more specific drink-spiking offences.
The Daily Telegraph has obtained a copy of the report by the NSW Drink Spiking Action Group late last year which called for the Government to adopt new procedures for police and hospital workers and improve training for hospitality staff.
But the overhaul has been put on the back-burner despite Sydney hospitals recording a doubling in overdoses of a popular date rape drug.
Doctors and police say they have seen an increase of drink spiking with prescription drugs as well as illicit drug gamma hydroxybutyrate – the drug that allegedly killed cruise ship victim Dianne Brimble.
One metropolitan hospital recorded a 53 per cent increase in GHB-related cases during February 2006 compared to the previous two years.
In 12 months from July 2002 to July 2003 up to 4000 people had their drinks spiked, with about a third of these involving sexual assault.
Figures from South-West Sydney Area Health's sexual assault unit show a 9 per cent increase since 1998 in sexual assault following drink spiking.
Shadow attorney-general Chris Hartcher said the Government was "sitting on its hands".
"There is a need to protect women from predators and the Government is failing," he said.
A spokesman for NSW Attorney-General Bob Debus said the report had been delayed as more work needed to be done to develop a national approach.
"In a matter of weeks we will be looking to bring to NSW Cabinet a proposal to deal with this type of abhorrent conduct," he said.
Drug squad commander Detective Superintendent David Laidlaw said the working group wanted drink spiking laws tightened.
"There are a limited amount of offences (perpetrators) can be charged with, we are endeavouring to to get specific legislation through that would give us greater powers to undertake investigations," he said.
St Vincent's Hospital emergency services director Professor Gordian Fulde said he had seen more victims drugged with GHB, which can be bought on the street for less than $30.
"It is increasing because drugs are available – drugs like GHB are not hard to get," he said.
National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre information officer Paul Dillon said drugs including prescription medication and alcohol were more likely to be used by drug spikers.
He said GHB was not odourless or tasteless and was so volatile that when mixed with alcohol or other drugs could swiftly induce unconsciousness or death.
"The drugs that are usually mentioned are the most least likely to be used," he said.
The report suggested surveillance equipment should be improved in bars and clubs, a register be created to log all incidences of spiking and hospitality workers receive training.