No indoor drug testing at Glastonbury Festival 2022

Visitors to this year’s Glastonbury Festival will not be tested for drugs when they enter the site – despite impassioned pleas from Somerset councillors.

Organizers of the Glastonbury Festival, which runs from June 22-26, currently operate a ‘behind the scenes’ testing policy, where drugs are tested once they have been found, turned over or seized from the site.

The festival’s security officer explained to Mendip District Council – which licenses the festival – that implementing indoor testing (where people offer to be tested for drugs as they enter) would not be a way to go. effective deterrent for resellers.

This response was met with dismay by several advisers – one of whom said he would “put on” and “remove certain body parts” from anyone convicted of drug trafficking.

Festival security officer Andy Battle spoke to members of Mendip District Council’s Licensing Committee at their meeting in Shepton Mallet on Wednesday evening (April 6).

The advice was originally to be delivered by an anonymous drug liaison officer from Avon and Somerset Constabulary, but they were unable to attend.

Councilor Shannon Brooke – who represents the Beckington and Selwood ward near Frome – passionately advocated introducing indoor drug testing at the festival, citing personal tragedy.

She said: “These young people are quite often away from home for the first time, they are camping with their friends and they are vulnerable to peer pressure – and they are often experimenting with drugs. Like it or not, that’s what happened.

“Very sadly, my best friend’s son had a best friend who died at the Reading Festival in 2019. It’s a very serious matter – this boy didn’t usually do drugs, but he did at festivals. He took too much ecstasy in too little time.

“I know bad things can happen to good people, and that’s what we have to try to avoid.

“Home drug testing is very common on the continent, and drug problems and overdoses weren’t as prevalent there – they were more aware and drugs could be tested.

“We have an amazing line-up of performers at Glastonbury this year – it’s probably going to be the best Glastonbury ever, but let’s hope our youngsters stay safe.

“Indoor testing discourages dealers from showing up with questionable hardware in the first place. Yes, some of them will – but the minute word gets out, they’re not going to make any money, are they? »

Parliament’s Select Committee on Digital, Culture, Media and Sport recommended indoor testing be implemented at UK media festivals in a report published in the summer of 2021.

However, the government has refused to fully implement its findings, citing concerns raised by ‘medical providers for Glastonbury and Reading Festivals’ that ‘potential unintended consequences of these tests have not been properly addressed. assessed”.

Mr Battle previously served as Deputy Chief Constable for West Yorkshire Police and was the National Portfolio Holder for Music Festival Policing before his retirement.

Since then he has “worked in the festival industry” focusing on “major incident preparedness”, lending his expertise to the Download Pilot Festival and Creamfields before working with the Glastonbury Festival team.

He defended the festival’s decision not to implement indoor drug testing, saying he was ‘really confident’ about the support facilities in place to help people who have used drugs during the festival. ‘event.

He said: “We have an in-house testing facility so we are able to test drugs on site. Drugs that are seized, turned over or found abandoned, we can test them.

“We use this information to inform communications with the public via social media and to inform the medical team – but in reality it is of very little use to them. [the medics]because they have the ability to deal with all drugs.

“We have wellbeing capabilities that have the capacity to manage over 50 people – we employ consultant psychologists, nurses and addictions counsellors. Hall tests are only effective when people show up. »

Mr Battle added that indoor testing would not stop what he claimed was the leading cause of drug-related deaths at festivals – namely people taking more than one drug at the same time, often with the alcohol.

He said: “Drug deaths are tragedies. The evidence suggests that, overall, more than one drug is involved – and invariably alcohol is also involved.

“There are no tests available that will tell you what the safe level of multi-drug and alcohol is – it’s a false premise that indoor testing would help us provide the right knowledge.

“I’ve spent my life chasing drug dealers – there’s nothing stopping them. They are parasites and they will find every opportunity to sell drugs to everyone.

“They’ll peddle brick dust if they can – they’ll just peddle anything to make money, and nothing will stop it – no amount of indoor testing.”

Mr Battle added that people had been more restricted on drug use at festivals since the end of the last coronavirus lockdown, saying Creamfields ‘wasn’t the drug festival we thought it would be’ .

He said: “We will never tolerate drugs, but I’m reassured that we will see ‘normal’ use, rather than ‘the floodgates are open, get ready, we’re all going to go crazy’.”

Councilor Damon Hooton criticized Mr Battle’s stance, citing his own experience working at Frome’s Sainsbury’s store.

He said: “I work in the retail industry and – bless them – the security guards we have don’t stop stealing. But the perception is there – that they’re there to stop it, and they’re stopping some of it.

“I am fiercely anti-drugs. I may be a Liberal Democrat, but I’d love to chain them [drug dealers] up – I would be very happy to remove some body parts from each of them.

Councilor Sam Phripp, who chairs the board, added: ‘I would say having attended the Glastonbury Festival myself, I think there can be a feeling when you’re there in a crowd that there is a permissive drug culture.

“I don’t want to sound like Mary Whitehouse saying this, but I think the average punter follows, sees various people on drugs, sees the police there a lot to be a friendly face and to be supportive – I think is a concern.

Mr. Battle replied: “We absolutely do not condone drug use; however, we view it as a medical and social issue. We don’t want to criminalize people for using drugs.

“That’s not to say that people wouldn’t be arrested by the police for drug possession if it was appropriate for the police to do so.

“We absolutely view drug trafficking as a criminal police matter – there is no gray area at all there.

“We are working closely with the police to understand where organized crime groups are operating, and they will put plans in place to deal with them.

“The most important lesson about drugs is to educate people. In my experience, if the message is coming from the local police or the local council, it just won’t hit the mark because the people who tell you follow on Twitter are not those who follow the festival.

“The best opportunity to engage is through the festival itself, and it has to be right on target – it has to be an appealing message to that audience. It will be something catchy and informative.

Mr Hooton is standing in the local elections for the new Somerset unitary council on May 5, as one of two Lib Dem candidates in the Frome West division.

Jan G. Gilbert