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UK Home Secretary Apologises After Date Rape Joke About Wife Surfaces On Same Day As Government Announces Anti-Spiking Measures

UK Home Secretary, James Cleverly, has apologised this week after a joke he made at a Downing Street reception about spiking his wife’s drink, became public. Earlier that same day, the Home Office announced plans to introduce new legislation tackling the spiking epidemic.


In a Sunday Mirror Exclusive last week (December 23) referring to his wife, Cleverly is reported to have said “a little bit of Rohypnol in her drink every night” was “not really illegal if it’s only a little bit”. Attending a reception at No.10, the Home Secretary supposedly disclosed the secret to a long marriage, telling a group of female guests to ensure your spouse “is always mildly sedated so she can never realise there are better men out there”.


Justifying their decision to publish Cleverley’s comments, The Sunday Mirror argued “these are exceptional circumstances given his role as Home Secretary and the subject matter”. Acknowledging Cleverley’s position as minister for crime, a spokesperson for the paper described it as their “duty to inform readers of what was said” by the Member for Braintree.


The term ‘spiking’ refers to the act of putting a substance, be that alcohol or drugs, into the drink or body of another person “without their knowledge or consent”. Rohypnol, the substance mentioned by Cleverly, is a well-known ‘date rape’ drug typically used to spike someone with the intention of raping or sexually assaulting them. The term ‘date rape’ originates from cases where people have been spiked and consequently sexually assaulted, whilst on dates. Under law however, the phrase is not recognised as a classification of sexual assault.


According to a Home Office report, an average of 561 spiking incidents are reported monthly to Police across England and Wales. These are made predominantly by women and occur mainly in bars and nightclubs.


In a 2022 YouGov survey of the British Public, 1 in 10 women said they have been spiked, while 4 in 10 people said police would not believe them if they reported a drink spiking. In a shocking statistic, nearly half of the British Public between the ages of 18 and 24 either say they have been spiked or know someone who has.


On the same day Cleverly made these comments about his wife, Susie (December 18), the Home Office publicised new anti-spiking measures, including modernised legislative language around spiking.


Recognising the “modern-day nature of the threat”, Minister for Victims and Safeguarding, Laura Farris, described spiking as “an insidious and predatory act”. She acknowledged that although currently illegal under law in this country, the legislation must be amended to “make the offence explicit”.


As well as legislative changes, these new measures will include further research into self-testing kits, additional training for door staff and improved education for young people. Guidance will also be provided to determine a “clear, unequivocal definition” of spiking to instil a “renewed confidence” in victims and survivors to come forward.


In a statement, the Home Secretary described the issue as “a personal priority” and assured the public that these new measures would “protect victims and bring more offenders to justice”.


Following the reveal of his comments at Downing Street this week, a spokesman for Cleverly said “in what was always understood as a private conversation, the Home Secretary made what was clearly meant to be an ironic joke – for which he apologises”.


However, the apology has not gone over well with many Opposition members and activist groups. The Shadow Minister for Domestic Violence and Safeguarding, Alex Davies-Jones, called Cleverley’s ‘joke’ justification the “most tired excuse in the book”, demanding a “cultural change” if attitudes around the subject are going to change.  


Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper, recognised the “appalling” nature of the Home Secretary’s jokes this week. She acknowledged the “devastating impact” that spiking has on the lives of young women nationwide.   


Jemima Olchawski, Chief Executive of women’s rights group, The Fawcett Society, described Cleverley’s ‘banter’ as “the excuse under which misogyny is allowed to thrive” before calling for his resignation. Anna Birley from the women’s safety campaign, Reclaim These Streets, also urged the Home Secretary to resign, saying his apology was “not enough” and Cleverly “should be deeply ashamed”.


When approached for comment, a spokeswoman for the Prime Minister said it was “right that the Home Secretary apologised” and Sunak ultimately “considers the matter closed”. Despite this, she was unclear whether the Prime Minister and Home Secretary had spoken about the incident.


Edited by: Kaiyah Ellison


Photo credit: Sky News


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Tags: #Government #RishiSunak #HomeSecretary #Spiking #JamesCleverly #DateRapeDrugs



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