The government has been urged to back substance checks at festivals after a new committee report warned that a surge in drug deaths could take place this summer.
A Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) select committee last month urged the home secretary to introduce drug-checking services after a mixture of evidence and “compelling” arguments found that it saved lives.
As The Guardian reports, Georgia Jones died at Hampshire’s Mutiny Festival in 2018 at the age of 18 after taking high-strength MDMA. Speaking to the publication, her mother Janine Milburn explained that drug-checks may have saved her daughter’s life.
“I honestly believe that if Georgia had been able to test her substance and given some advice on how to remain safe, she might have come home alive that day,” she said.
“I think if people are given truthful drug education – with testing encouraged and facilitated not just at festivals – then drug-related deaths would be significantly lower.
“People need to start doing what is right rather than fearing the stigma around drugs and stopping services like the Loop from saving lives.”
We’re concerned about the increased risk of drug-related harm at events this summer, so we're calling for greater clarity from Government about drug-checking services. #FutureOfFestivalsInquiry @julianknight15 pic.twitter.com/yPegxEFIhU
— Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee (@CommonsDCMS) May 29, 2021
In its evidence, the DCMS noted that since 2016 “there have been no drug-related deaths at any festival [with drug checking]”.
The DCMS report also revealed that the government said in 2018 that it would not “stand in the way” of drug checking, but there was confusion over the nationwide legality of the schemes, which can only operate with the co-operation and blessing of police forces, councils and organisers.
It’s thought that at least 14 younger people have died after taking drugs at festivals in England since 2017, but the true figure is thought to be higher.
The DCMS said: “The government should introduce a dedicated licensing scheme for drug checking to set a clear legal framework and minimum standards that service providers must meet.”
Festivals are currently set to return in England from the end of June, in line with the government’s road-map out of coronavirus lockdown.