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Labour’s Jess Phillips visits Nottingham to discuss measures for safeguarding women and girls

A Labour shadow minister says Nottingham is “trailblazing and trendsetting” in its efforts to make the city a safer place for women and girls by clamping down on spiking and harassment in pubs and clubs.

Jess Phillips, Shadow Minister for Domestic Violence and Safeguarding, visited Nottingham music venue Rock City on Wednesday, August 23.

She was taken on a tour of the venue in Talbot Street to see how it had responded to a reported surge in needle-spiking incidents towards the end of 2021.

Nottinghamshire Police received 146 reports of needle spiking in the city in eight weeks between October and December of that year.

Michele Somers, area manager for Rock City’s owner DHP and chairperson for the Nottingham Pub Watch, said the venue has retained a welfare crew of around seven to eight people, having initially started out as a pilot project.

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A triage room can also be used as a safe space, while an on-site medic can monitor people to see if they have improved after reporting they feel unwell, or if the emergency services are ultimately required.

She said the initiative has helped take pressure off the NHS and emergency departments.

“If someone has reported being sexually harassed, we will listen and we will act,” she said.

“That person will be removed from the venue. If we are wrong, then so be it, it is better than the alternative.

“I do think the things we have put in place as a city, even highlighting we have a zero tolerance to spiking, will reduce that.”

Ms Phillips said she would be taking note of some of Nottingham’s initiatives, including the mobile safe spaces to help women and girls feel safer on the city’s streets at night.

She further praised the move by Nottinghamshire Police to record public harassment of women and its pilot in making misogyny a hate crime.

“I don’t feel this level of thought went into it when I was young and out in the night-time economy,” Ms Phillips said.

“There has been a real focus here in Nottingham on the issue of consent and sexual violence, the focus on it here is really, really trailblazing.

“Nottingham led the way with misogyny as a hate crime. There is will in this place from leadership across the area to really do something about it.

“At the moment confidence in policing among women is at an all-time low, it can only help if other areas do what Nottingham is doing to make women come forward.”

Ms Phillips has also been backing calls on the Government to make needle spiking a specific offence in law.

However, the Home Offices said that spiking is “already illegal” and did not confirm whether it plans to respond to the calls.

In September, thousands more students will arrive to study at Nottingham Trent University and the University of Nottingham.

At any one time in an academic year, 60,000 students can be studying in the city.

Leonie Mathers, deputy director of advocacy at the University of Nottingham, said: “This is nationally-leading stuff, we are going further than other places.

“We talk to our students regularly and our student surveys say they do feel safe going out in Nottingham.

“Of course people are really aware about all of the bad things that can happen and I think from us it is about showing that there are things in place to protect them.”

Labour-run Nottingham City Council is also a partner of the Night Time Economy Safety Partnership, which was formed to make the city a safer place.

Councillor Sajid Mohammed (Lab), the Portfolio Holder for Neighbourhoods, Safety and Inclusion, added: “Building partnership that have got depth and show a real commitment and courage to say, look, this subject is going to be on buses, trams, in shops, in universities, in bars, you should feel safe in this city.”

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