It’s a topic that’s been up for fierce debate in Australia (although the division often seems to fall between health experts and the government/law enforcement), but it looks as if at least six music festivals are set to introduce pill testing this year – in the UK, at least.
As the BBC reports, Melvin Benn (of established UK promoter Festival Republic, and organiser of Latitude, V Festival, Wireless and more for Live Nation) has revealed a plan to the Press Association that he fully expects will result in “between six and 10 festivals this year” introducing the harm-reduction measure.
“We talked about it during the summer of last year and the reality is that I took a decision that unless and until the National Police Chiefs’ Council supported the principle of it, it was difficult for us to move forward on it.”
It seems that the latest draft agreement makes it easier for the policy to be supported by various local law enforcement groups, and Benn is now waiting for the West Yorkshire Police (who police Leeds festival and others) and the National Police Chiefs’ Council to officially confirm their support.
“We’ll see it this year for definite… at Leeds I’m pretty certain,” Benn insists. “It’s taken a long time and it won’t be at every festival, but where we think there is a need to do it we will be doing it.”
Benn has been piecing this plan together for around a year and, if it goes ahead as Benn expects it will, it will allow anyone in possession of drugs to take them for testing at on-site tents run by drug testing organisation The Loop.
The wrinkle is that they’ll destroy whatever amount was handed over for testing, so festival-goers might end up accidentally giving up their entire supply if they’re not paying attention.
The Telegraph reports that the National Police Chiefs’ Council is assisting with the guidelines and encouraging local police forces to support the idea at festivals and clubs, and quotes Assistant Chief Constable Andy Battle of the West Yorkshire police as saying that they would continue to fiercely police the sale of controlled substances.
“We can never condone the use of illegal drugs,” he says, “but we recognise that some people will continue to take them and we need to adapt our approach in the interests of public safety.
“Consuming controlled drugs is inherently dangerous and the tragic consequences of this have been illustrated with drugs-related deaths at the event in recent years.
“We will continue to work closely with the on-site security team to target the possession and supply of controlled drugs and the criminal law will be applied appropriately as necessary.”
While earlier this year a Melbourne council voted in favour of introducing pill testing, and late last year The Greens’ call for pill testing and an end to sniffer dogs passed the senate, Australia is still a long way from that point it seems, with the NSW Police Minister dismissing the idea and the ACT Government rejecting Groovin The Moo’s plan to allow testing at its Canberra leg.