Home secretary apologises after joking about spiking his wife’s drink


James Cleverly has apologised after joking about putting a date rape drug in his wife’s drink in comments made at a Downing Street reception within hours of the Home Office announcing plans to crack down on spiking.

The home secretary told female guests “a little bit of Rohypnol in her drink every night” was “not really illegal if it’s only a little bit”, the Sunday Mirror reported.

Mr Cleverly also laughed that the secret to a long marriage was ensuring your spouse was “someone who is always mildly sedated so she can never realise there are better men out there”.

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The home secretary and his wife Susie have two children.

Conversations at Downing Street receptions are usually understood to be “off the record” but the Sunday Mirror decided to break the convention because of Mr Cleverly’s position and the subject matter.

A spokesperson for Mr Cleverly said: “In what was always understood as a private conversation, James, the Home Secretary, tackling spiking, made what was clearly meant to be an ironic joke – for which he apologises.”

The home secretary has previously described tackling violence against women and girls as a “personal priority” and called spiking – when someone puts drugs into another person’s drink or directly into their body without their knowledge or consent – a “perverse” crime.

Senior Labour figures criticised Mr Cleverly’s “appalling” comments, with Alex Davies-Jones, shadow minister for domestic violence and safeguarding, saying: “‘It was a joke’ is the most tired excuse in the book and no one is buying it.

“If the home secretary is serious about tackling spiking, and violence against women and girls, then that requires a full cultural change. The ‘banter’ needs to stop and it has to start at the top.”

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‘Truly unbelievable’

Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said: “Spiking is a disturbing and serious crime which is having a devastating impact on young women’s lives. It is truly unbelievable that the home secretary made such appalling jokes on the very same day the government announced new policy on spiking.

“It suggests that despite being the cabinet minister ultimately responsible for tackling violence against women and girls he doesn’t get how serious this is. Victims will understandably be questioning if they can trust him to take this vile crime seriously.”

Police receive 561 spiking reports a month

Ministers pledged to modernise the language used in legislation to make clear spiking is a crime and announced a series of other measures as part of a crackdown, but stopped short of making spiking a specific offence.

There were 6,732 reports of spiking in England and Wales – including 957 reported incidents of needle spiking – between May 2022 and April 2023.

On average police receive 561 reports of spiking a month, with the majority being made by women typically after incidents in or near bars and nightclubs, according to a Home Office report.

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