MPS hosts conference to tackle threat of chemsex

The Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) is co-hosting a National Conference Briefing today (February 26) in response to chemsex-related crime and vulnerability.

Feb 26, 2020
By Tony Thompson
Serial killer Stephen Port used chemsex drugs to murder four people.

There have been more than 60 fatal overdoses linked to common chemsex drugs, which include Gamma Hydroxybutyrat (GHB) and Gamma Butyrolactone (GBL), in London alone, including murder. The MPS’s LGBT+ Advisory Group has described chemsex as the “crisis of our time” for LGBT+ communities.

Chemsex typically refers to situations in which a person uses drugs before or during sexual activity to “sustain, enhance, disinhibit or facilitate the sexual experience”. This could be a one-off meeting or a prolonged encounter over a number of days, usually arranged via social media.

The conference, jointly hosted with Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service [London] (HMPPS), is the first of its kind, both nationally and internationally, and aims to raise awareness and enhance coordination and collaboration between criminal justice partners around this “complex” issue.

Detective Chief Superintendent Helen Lyons, the MPS’s lead responsible officer for rape, said: “The Met recognises that crime in a chemsex context is not an isolated issue of sexual offending or substance misuse. Chemsex-related vulnerability and offending are considerably under-reported while levels of complexity are vast.”

The conference will bring together more than 100 senior criminal justice professionals, including those from law enforcement, the Crown Prosecution Service, prison and probation services and barristers.

Lessons learnt from murder investigations, proactive drug supply operations and the case management of offenders within the chemsex scene will be complemented by inputs from public health leads and academic experts. Conference organisers hope this will enable the sharing of an emerging model of good practice that will raise awareness nationally.

This event will also see the launch of ‘Project Sagamore’, a multi-agency response to chemsex-related crime and vulnerability.

This will be jointly led by the MPS and the HMPPS following their collaboration in establishing and co-chairing the London Chemsex Working Group.

The conference will also see the launch of a new definition of ‘crime and vulnerability within the chemsex context’. It is anticipated that this will help with identification of cases in a “timely and appropriate manner” and reduce stigmatisation for victims of chemsex crimes, encouraging increased reporting of offences and giving victims the confidence to seek specialist support.

Stephen Morris, chemsex and crime lead for HMPPS, said: “The rise in chemsex-related crime is a real challenge because the things driving someone to offend are incredibly complex and very different to anything we have dealt with before. Drug use is prompting extreme and criminal behaviour among those who might otherwise be law-abiding citizens. That is why we are working with the police, mental health and drug misuse services to better understand this crime and provide support that steers offenders and potential offenders away from it.”

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