A Liberal MP has claimed drink spiking is increasing in the gay and lesbian community during the parliamentary debate on the new criminal offence that passed last month.

The new laws, supported by all parties, carry a maximum penalty of two years’ imprisonment or an $11,000 fine for spiking a person’s food or drink with the intent of harming that person.

Drink spiking is occurring more and more in the gay and lesbian community. One in five drink-spiking victims are men, Liberal MP Marie Ficarra said during the debate.

Most cases of drink spiking occur at nightclubs and pubs. Sometimes the motivation is to see what effect the drug might have on a person. Some people spike their friends’ drinks to liven up a party, but unfortunately they are often unaware of the consequences of what they have done.

The Anti-Violence Project and the City of Sydney have both run public awareness campaigns on drink spiking in the gay and lesbian community in recent years, but there are doubts about its prevalence as the last incident reported to the AVP was over four months ago.

We are vigilant to the risks and hold that drink spiking is a real threat. However, there have been no recent reports, no major events, and no indications from police that this is an issue, AVP project officer Robert Knapman said.

The AVP’s two stand-alone campaigns were based around the Olympics and Gay Games influxes, as it claimed drink spiking was known to increase when an influx of tourists for large public events occurred, based on non-GLBT-specific data.

The second campaign around the Gay Games had a particularly urgent need as police had identified a specific threat.

A Safety Committee was chaired by police with representatives from AVP, the City of Sydney and the NSW Health Department. This was in response to a known gang or group of heterosexual men targeting gay men for robbery, with around half a dozen confirmed cases, Knapman said.

Between 2000 and 2002 a number of sexual assaults had been reported where gay men spiked other men’s drinks and then sexually assaulted them. In other cases gay men were given pills, assumed to be ecstasy, and then led to an ATM where their money was stolen.

A reported bashing in Sydney’s inner west was also linked to drink spiking during this time, he said.

Despite the lack of recent reports, the AVP still wants people to be cautious, go to the bar if someone offers to buy you a drink, and not leave drinks unattended. If you suddenly feel tired or dizzy, AVP recommends letting bar or security staff know immediately.

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