UK authorities launch huge operation to curb chemsex crimes in the wake of Britain’s ‘most prolific rapist’

Reynhard Sinaga

The UK has launched a massive, nationwide, multi-agency operation to tackle a growing chemsex wave highlighted by the conviction of Reynhard Sinaga.

The Metropolitan Police has described chemsex as the “crisis of our time” for LGBT+ communities, noting that there have been more than 60 fatal overdoses linked to drugs such as GHB and GBL in London alone, including murder.

The issue was brought to the fore earlier this year as Britain’s most prolific rapist was convicted of 159 sex offences against 48 men in Manchester, a chemsex hotspot. It is thought he drugged many of them using GHB or GBL.

In the wake of the case, home secretary Priti Patel announced that the government would review its classification of the drugs GHB and GBL, which are currently class C, alongside steroids and sedatives.

Buzzfeed News revealed this has been followed by a new government initiative, “Project Sagamore”, to form an organised, national response to the chemsex crime wave by escalating intelligence sharing between UK authorities.

The authorities involved span policing, probation and criminal justice, health, sexual health and community sector groups. A range of health organisations, including Public Health England and LGBT+ health charities, will also contribute.

“Project Sagamore” was first unveiled at the national conference for chemsex and crime in February, the first conference of its kind, both nationally and internationally.

‘Broadening’ the definition of chemsex.

Expanding what constitutes a chemsex setting will help police, health and justice agencies to identify and respond to cases, experts say.

With this in mind the conference revealed a new, broader definition of chemsex for criminal justice agencies to identify all the possible situations in which chemsex-related crimes might occur.

According to Buzzfeed News, it details an array of circumstances “[in] which a person engages in sex with another (or others), using drugs or during sexual activity, to sustain, enhance, disinhibit, or facilitate the sexual experience”.

It includes examples of some of the known crimes: “Murder, serious physical assaults, rape, distribution of indecent images, poisoning, theft, blackmail, drug supply, harassment, robbery and a wide range of other offences.”

It broadens the definition of those who get caught up in chemsex crimes, noting that while it most commonly involves men who have sex with men, it could also include those who do not identify as either gay or bisexual but who “on occasions and in specific situations do have sex with other men (e.g. male sex workers, males in prison)”.

But the reach of chemsex is wider than ever, the conference heard, with women now being affected and victimised – a reflection of the complex picture still emerging of chemsex-related crimes.

Stephen Morris, chemsex and crime lead for HMPPS, said: “The rise in chemsex-related crime is a real challenge because the things driving someone to offend are incredibly complex and very different to anything we have dealt with before.

“Drug use is prompting extreme and criminal behaviour among those who might otherwise be law-abiding citizens. That is why we are working with the police, mental health and drug misuse services to better understand this crime and provide support that steers offenders and potential offenders away from it.”