Dear Mayor Andy Burnham,
I would prefer not to be writing this letter. But a combined failure of both the NHS and Greater Manchester Police has left me angry and made too real an issue that has affected too many women in our area. As our Greater Manchester mayor, with devolved powers over policing and healthcare, I want to ask you to do more to keep women.
On Friday 28th July, my friends and I went out into Manchester city centre to celebrate a friend’s birthday. Although I left at 1am, my friends stayed out dancing into the night, enjoying what Manchester has to offer. Sadly, this quickly soured when a man bought one of my friends a drink in a bar, which she then drank. A short while later, my friends saw the man who bought this drink being ejected by bouncers. My friend, who was staying on my sofa, was brought home safely with friends, but things quickly took a turn for the worse. I was woken by her hyper-ventilating, hallucinations, with her on the phone to 111 with concern for her health.
She believed the drink she’d been bought had been spiked.
My partner (who’d stayed sober) drove us to A&E at the Manchester Royal Infirmary, where my friend was immediately triaged, but told there was no need to take any bloods. She would just need to stay in the waiting room for monitoring. Police were also present in the A&E department, and my friend spoke to the officers who were there asking them for advice on how to handle this potential drink spiking incident. She was told that phoning 101 once we’d returned home would be the best next step.
After around 2 hours waiting in A&E, the hallucinations and hyper-ventilations had stopped and my friend wished to be discharged. We spoke to a member of staff, were discharged, and returned home to sleep the remainder off.
My friend contacted 101 the next day to report the incident and was told the police would visit her at her address a few days later. On the day of the booked visit, she received a phone call and was told a visit would not be possible – the operator did not realise that Warrington was not in Greater Manchester when booking the visit, so no officers could visit her. Further, because no bloods were taken at the time, there were no active lines of inquiry and the case closed. As far as we were aware, the venue which threw out the alleged perpetrator has not been contacted.
She feels failed by the system. I can’t say I blame her.
I want to believe you when you say you’re serious about tackling gender-based violence. But this case demonstrates a basic failure of the system, and has potentially left someone free to try again, with women at risk if he succeeds. Action on women and girl’s safety must translate from press releases to the systematic change needed that means front-line staff can respond to these threats.
I know I write to you with just one example. But I fear that this is the norm for too many women on nights out in Manchester. Where too many near misses are leaving predatory men free until it escalates beyond a near miss, and someone is left in serious harm.
I ask you to reflect on this case, and to how you can provide reassurance both to myself and women across Greater Manchester that these situations are to become a thing of the past. Basic failures such as the one my friend received must not happen.
You have the power to be able to influence the system which responds to drink spiking and gender-based violence. Please use it.
Councillor Chris Northwood
Deputy Leader, Manchester Liberal Democrats
Member for Ancoats and Beswick ward