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Ambulance call-outs and the police

Ambulance call-outs and the police

Ambulance call-outs and the policeIn July 2018, the Metropolitan police issued the following guidance on chemsex and what they do if they are called. The guidance (in blue) has been produced working with LGBT advisors to the police (including the Gay Men’s Health Collective and Release) and third party agencies with experience of supporting victims of sexual violence under the influence of drugs.

If you’re under the influence of drugs

All allegations of crime are taken seriously and sexual assaults are dealt with sensitively by specially trained officers, known as SOIT (Sexual Offence Investigation Techniques) officers. They’re trained to understand the difficulties faced by someone reporting sexual violence and can direct you to the most appropriate support services. If you report a sexual assault to us your SOIT officer will be the point of contact with us.

You’ll be asked if you’ve taken or used drugs or alcohol, this is mainly to make sure you are feeling well enough to give a proper account of what happened, and legally agree (consent) to a medical examination. If you aren’t able to they can take some basic information and take a statement and tests at a later date.

It’s also important that we know from the start if there were any drugs and/or alcohol involved, because if it comes out later it might affect how well you are believed. Not because you’ve taken drugs, but because you didn’t give the full information from the beginning which might look like you’re trying to hide something.

You won’t be arrested for using or telling us you’ve used drugs; that isn’t illegal. You can report to us online, by calling 101 if it isn’t an emergency, and on 999 if you or someone else is in immediate danger. If you want to report to us anonymously, you can do that. Some recommended ways to report anonymously:

  • Crimestoppers
  • The Havens (organisation who help people whohave been raped or sexually assaulted)
  • National Ugly Mugs (if you’re a sex worker)
  • Through one of our partners such as GALOPor Survivors UK

If you're in possession of drugs

If you tell us you’re in possession of drugs, or that you supplied (shared or sold) drugs in the past, we can’t ignore this, as physical possession, supply, or possession with intent to supply (PWITS) are criminal offences.

If you’re the victim of a crime when you were taking drugs, and you don’t tell us but it comes out later, it might affect any future court case. You might be seen as a less reliable witness or victim because you kept information back. But you will have a chance to explain why you did this. The law that deals with drug offences is the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971.

If you’re arrested

You won’t be arrested for using drugs while having sex; if you admit to criminal offences (e.g. supply of drugs, committing rape or other sexual offences) you’ll be arrested. If you work with children or vulnerable adults (as an employee or volunteer) we might tell them you have been arrested, but this depends on the offence and other things. This is called a disclosure.

There’s no set list of jobs or types of jobs that will trigger us telling your employer, or an organisation where you volunteer, if you’re arrested. Instead, the police have the power to decide what information to disclose, and to who – this is under the Common Law Police Disclosure (CLPD) scheme.

The police should only disclose information if they identify a ‘significant risk’ and an ‘urgent pressing’ social need to address. The National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) says that ‘pressing social need might be the safeguarding, or protection from harm, of an individual, a group of individuals, or society at large.' The police have a duty to balance public interest against your rights, including how a disclosure might affect your private life.

If you’re in a job or voluntary role that involves being in a position of trust or responsibility with the public, then the police will definitely think about making a disclosure. The decision will be based on:

  • your job/type of work
  • the offence being investigated
  • any specific circumstances
  • an assessment of risk to an individual or group of people

Any disclosure has to be authorised by an experienced officer. For example, in London, the decision is taken by an officer who is at least an Inspector. The police can’t make a decision about what happens with your job – they just give the information to your employer so they can decide what, if anything, to do. Your employer should have policies in place on how to deal with this situation.

Will police attend if an ambulance is called?

We work with the Ambulance Service to work out when we need to attend if they are called. We’ll likely attend if:

  • there’s suspicion that a crime has been committed
  • entry (to the premises) may need to be forced to let the ambulance crew in
  • the patient may be a danger to themselves
  • the patient may be a danger to the ambulance crew

There are lots of specific reasons why police can enter (and search) a property without a warrant. The police also have a general power to enter to arrest someone or ‘to save life or limb’. So if, for example, an ambulance crew arrive and are refused entry by the occupier they’ll call us for help.

The police can then use their power if they feel that they need to gain entry to save or protect someone’s life. But if the Ambulance Service are already inside dealing with the situation the power to save life or limb wouldn’t apply, as it wouldn’t be necessary to enter.

It’s possible that refusing entry will look suspicious, but you have the right to say no. The law that deals with drug offences is the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984.

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Our thoughts on this guidance

This guidance is based on the position of the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS), which covers the Greater London area. Whilst police forces in other parts of the country can look to the MPS for working practices, they might actually do things differently. Whilst this guidance does not provide clear protection against investigation of a drug-related offence, it is absolutely right that drug use is not an offence in the UK.

However, possession and/ or possession with intent to supply a control drug is, and if you are questioned about these specific activities you should say nothing until you have a solicitor to represent you, or have at least spoken to one. But, the possibility of being questioned by the police should not be a reason to not call an ambulance if there has been an overdose or some other incident that needs medical help.

Calling an ambulance in an overdose situation can save lives. Ensuring friends get the right medical help if they need it is the top priority. However, there have been occasions when an ambulance has not been called because guys are fearful the police will turn up as well, and that if there has been a fatality this could lead to arrest and investigation.

Unfortunately, we cannot advise you to air rooms, tidy up, shower and put on some clothes and send your house guests away because (if a crime has been committed under the law, and evidence is removed or destroyed as a result) we could be arrested and prosecuted for actively encouraging you to do this.

The best advice we can give you is to always call an ambulance if you think someone’s life is at risk.

Chemsex advice and information | Metropolitan Police | July 2018

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