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An oral evidence session today, 16 March, forming part of the DCMS Committee’s The Future of UK Music Festivals inquiry, has heard that uncertainty around the start of the festival season could lead to drug-related harm this summer.

Following the session, which included evidence from assistant chief constable Justin Bibby, deputy chief constable Jason Harwin and professor Fiona Measham, DCMS Committee chair Julian Knight MP said the uncertainty surrounding if and when festivals will take place, a huge pent up demand from the public, combined with a ready supply of high-risk drugs risks could lead to problems this summer.

He said, “I have grave concerns following this morning’s session, which heard the prospect of increased drug-related deaths and I’ll be raising the alarm with the Minister next week”

Measham, chair in Criminology at University of Liverpool and director of The Loop, which provides multi agency safety testing at UK festivals, said one reason there could be an increase in drug-related harm this summer  was that The Loop is typically able to test drugs in circulation from May onwards and can report problematic pills or batches to authorities early in the season. This intelligence is used to warn festival goers and organisers with events later in the season, potentially preventing hospitalisations and deaths from drugs. Professor Measham stated that current delays to the festival season makes it feel “like we’re going to be fighting with one arm behind our back.”

Other risk factors mentioned were: lower tolerance in the population, pent up demand, high strength and widely adulterated pills seen circulating abroad, less time for training as well as police intelligence that individuals in organised crime are planning to exploit the reopening of festivals and the night-time economy to push out more drugs.

Harwin, the National Police Chiefs’ council lead for drugs, told the Committee he has seen evidence of strategies such as 2 for 1 deals.

Watch the session here from 11:17.