Forensic Science Experts for Criminal Defence Solicitors
Call head office 01782 394929
London Office 0207 118 9001
Freephone 0800 999 7 666

Harm prevention versus Justice; Can they work together?

Written by: Alan Baker 22nd June, 2023

Glastonbury Festival, the world-famous music and performing arts event, has implemented a drug testing initiative in recent years. The festival organisers recognised the importance of harm reduction and safety, aiming to provide attendees with information about the substances they may be consuming.  In previous years, they worked in collaboration with an organization called The Loop to offer on-site drug testing services. The Loop is an independent non-profit organization that specialises in harm reduction and provides drug safety testing and education at festivals and other events. Festival-goers had the option to submit samples of their drugs anonymously for testing to determine their contents.

The purpose of the drug testing service was to help individuals make more informed decisions regarding substance use. The testing process identified potentially dangerous substances, high-dose pills, and adulterated drugs, thereby reducing the risk of harm associated with drug use. The Loop also provides harm reduction advice and counselling to festival attendees based on the test results.

However, any harm reduction in relation to the availability of drug testing should not be seen as an endorsement or encouragement of drug use and alongside this is the reality that the possession and supply of controlled drugs is a criminal offence.

Indeed, the Festival website comments that “The dealing in or use of illegal drugs is not condoned by Glastonbury festival. Drug enforcement laws are as applicable on the festival side as anywhere else in the country. Police officers will be on site and will deal with drug offences in accordance with national guidelines if you dealing drugs it is likely that you will be arrested.”

In fact, as far back as the late 1990’s, Avon and Somerset Police employed the services of an accredited laboratory’s who set-up what would now be described as an onsite facility complete with state of the art Gas Chromatograph Mass Spectrometer and staffed with trained and experienced scientists who could give evidence as expert witness. The service allowed officers to bring individuals with any associated suspect substances to the site and have court-ready statements within hours. It was truly a drive-thru service and revolutionary at the time.

Bericon Forensics current MD, Alan Baker, was involved in the organisation and management of the facility and says that whilst transporting delicate and expensive testing kit down the M5 presented challenges for his colleagues, he believes that it was first time that site-based analysis had been used at a festival and it gave justice and harm reduction.