Met defends swabbing people for drugs at random on night out in London

4 January 2022, 14:31

Police have defended their controversial drugs swab video
Police have defended their controversial drugs swab video. Picture: Metropolitan Police

By Will Taylor

Police have defended a controversial video of officers swabbing revellers hands for drugs, saying it resulted in the arrest of a woman.

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Anger erupted on social media after the Metropolitan Police posted footage of officers searching Londoners by swabbing their hands.

It drew heavy criticism as Twitter users asked which law allowed them to do so and whether those stopped had consented to being tested for drugs, with little context provided by the force.

Now, the Met has said the checks took place with the agreement of two "licensed premises" in Curtain Road, Shoreditch, that agreed to the swabs as a condition of entry. The move came as part of a women's safety initiative.

Read more: Anger after Met posts video showing officers swab Londoners for drugs on night out

It added that a woman was arrested on suspicion of possessing Class A drugs after she was seen "disposing of a suspicious package".

A friend she was out with appeared to have a high reading of Class A drugs after being tested by the officers' drugs itemiser machine, which examines people's hands.

A statement added: "The use of the machine was as a condition of entry [to the two premises], that condition being agreed with the licensees for that night.

"Anyone who refused was not allowed entry to the venues on the night. It was made clear to those wanting to attend the venues that the swabbing was voluntary.

"Refusal did not automatically mean that the person would be searched under S23 of the Misuse of Drugs Act.

"If anyone provided a positive swab and no further grounds for search were identified they were allowed to continue with their night.

Read more: Police watchdog rejects 'invalid' Met complaint over No10 party allegations

"If further grounds were observed, then searches were conducted. No personal details were obtained from anyone unless they provided them when stopped/searched.

"Safeguarding officers were also present to speak to people about the dangers of drug use, signposting them to charitable organisations and government programmes regarding addiction/misuse of controlled substances."

In total, 15 people were searched.

The Met said the footage was taken during a "week of action" by officers in a bid to make nightlife safer.

The officers deployed to areas where a it had seen a spike in incidents of women and girls feeling unsafe or becoming a victim of a crime.

The force said it is known that Class A drugs are linked to serious crime and violence and described Shoreditch as a "hotspot for these kinds of offences".