PCC has ‘absolutely no doubt’ more drug testing at festivals could save lives

North Wales’ police and crime commissioner (PCC) wants to see more drug testing at clubs and music festivals after a successful trial of new technology.

Jun 14, 2018
By Kevin Hearty
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A mobile testing unit was deployed at Gottwood festival in Anglesey last weekend allowing North Wales Police to see whether drugs used there were cut with dangerous substances.

Users were encouraged to give up drugs including ketamine and MDMA in amnesty bins set up by the force after two young people died of drug poisoning at a recent similar event in Portsmouth.

If a drug was found to contain traces of other harmful substances, such as cement dust or talcum powder, the testing unit allowed officers to issue a warning message across the festival site.

Deputy PCC Ann Griffith claimed this initiative could help save more lives in the future.

She said: “We are moving in the direction [PCC Arfon Jones] wants to see although we still have some way to go.

“Mr Jones wants to see front of house testing stations at which festival goers can have the quality and purity of their drugs tested to ensure they are what they think they are and people know what they are taking. It would save lives there is absolutely no doubt about it.

“This would ensure people are kept safe. With the best will in the world we will never stop people attending festivals and taking illegal drugs and substances. We have to recognise and deal with it in the right way. Safety has to come first.”

Georgia Jones, 18, and Tommy Cowan, 20, died in May after taking drugs at the Mutiny music festival in Portsmouth.

At least 15 other festivalgoers were admitted to hospital over the weekend, prompting the organisers to cancel its second day warning of a “dangerous high strength or bad batch substance on site”.

Drug testing charity The Loop claimed the batch at Mutiny was up to triple an average adult dose.

Ms Griffiths accompanied Chief Inspector Mark Armstrong to see how North Wales Police and festival organisers were cooperating with other agencies to protect people at Gottwood from dangerous drugs.

She claimed that many people often buy drugs without knowing what is in them and will dispose of them if they learn they could have life-threatening consequences.

Chief Insp Armstrong said he was “delighted” with the way the festival went, with officers working closely with organisers and security to keep people safe.

“No one has had to be taken from the site due to medical reasons after taking any illicit drug and any issue that has arisen has been dealt with on site,” he added.

Tom Elkington, a Gottwood Festival director, added: “We will never stop people bringing drugs with them but what we have to do is make it as safe as possible.

“What we can do is test as much as we can but without qualified chemists onsite we are limited to how much we can do. But if someone does feel unwell we can run some basic tests to check on the potency of whatever substance they have taken.”

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