News & Current Affairs

By Satomi Hamon


Proposed laws against drink spiking in Canberra

Laws to make it harder for people to get away with drink spiking in Canberra will soon be introduced into the ACT Legislative Assembly.

ACT Attorney-General Gordon Ramsay will bring forward the legislation in the coming months, the Canberra Times reported on Wednesday. The legislation could see the ACT aligned more closely with NSW in the way it deals with drink spiking.

Under NSW law, drink spiking is a criminal offence that can attract harsh penalties. The offence is found under section 38A of the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW), which states a person:

(a) who causes another person to be given or to consume drink or food:

(i) containing an intoxicating substance that the other person is not aware it contains, or

(ii) containing more of an intoxicating substance than the other person would reasonably expect it to contain, and

(b) who intends a person to be harmed by the consumption of the drink or food, is guilty of an offence.

This offence carries a maximum penalty of 2 years imprisonment and/or a fine of up to $11,000.

There are a number of possible defences to a charge of drink spiking in NSW, including being able to demonstrate that the alleged victim was aware of the intoxicating substance and the amounts involved.

It is also possible to successfully defend against charges of drink spiking in situations where it could be assumed that the alleged victim would be willing to consume the spiked food or drink if they had prior knowledge of what it contained.

Drink spiking is often associated with a drug, such as GHB, Rohypnol or Ketamine, being added to someone’s drink to facilitate sexual assault. However, according to NSW Police, alcohol itself is the most commonly used substance in drink spiking incidents, and often it is a friend or acquaintance who adds alcohol or more alcohol than expected to the victim’s drink as a joke.

The proposed laws are in some ways similar to the already existing offence under section 28(2)(a) of the Crimes Act 1900 (ACT) which states:

(2) A person who intentionally and unlawfully —

(b) administers to, or causes to be taken by, another person any poison or other injurious substance with intent to injure or cause pain or discomfort to that person; is guilty of an offence.

This offence carries a maximum penalty of imprisonment for 5 years.

However, according to a spokeswoman for Mr Ramsay, the new laws will better address the dangerous behaviour of drink spiking.