Parklife festival (cap. 80,000) co-founder Sacha Lord and the NTIA have written to the Home Office demanding a judicial review following its decision to ban on-site ‘pop-up’ labs to test drugs at festivals.
The NTIA and Lord, who is Greater Manchester’s night-time economy advisor to the mayor Andy Burnham, accused the home secretary Suella Braverman of “putting lives at risk” after her department did a U-turn and demanded licences to test drugs at all festivals.
The Home Office announced on 8 June 2023 that on-site drugs testing at music festivals would require a Controlled Drugs Licence and that testing must take place at a named, permanent premises rather than at festival sites.
In a letter to the Home Office, the NTIA & Lord demanded that the decision be immediately reversed and the previously agreed arrangement for drug testing be restarted. This latest step follows calls from artists, festival operators and a cross-party group of more than 30 MPs for the Government to reverse its decision.
Since 2014 there have been on-site drug testing labs at music festivals in the UK. The service has been provided with the agreement of local police and councils by way of a Memorandum of Understanding with festival organisers and the drug testing companies.
Operating on a cross-agency basis, means information about dangerous drugs circulating at an event can be passed on to festival goers, organisers, police, and medical services while any harmful substances can be destroyed or passed to the police.
On-site testing also enables medical teams to treat anyone who has an adverse reaction quickly and effectively because they will already be aware of the drugs chemical composition.
Lord said, “This on-site testing has saved lives and the absence of it puts lives at risk.”
A leading provider of on-site drug testing, The Loop, was informed at the beginning of June that a Controlled Drugs Licence was needed which would require the company to have a permanent laboratory.
The NTIA and Lord wrote in the letter that despite denials to the contrary, “the Home Office is well aware that on-site drug testing has been taking place at festivals across the country since 2014.”
The letter stated, “In a response to the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee report on the future of UK music festivals presented in August 2021, the Government said it ‘will continue to support back-of-house testing on substances that have been seized as this can provide useful intelligence and enable festival organisers and other partners to implement harm reduction measures’.”
The letter also stated that the time involved in sending drugs away from the festival for analysis defeats the purpose of on-site testing.
Lord said, “The Home Office must put an end to this reckless disregard for the safety of festival goers and reinstate the existing Memorandum of Understanding with immediate effect. The industry works tirelessly to ensure we do everything possible to safeguard the public. If the Home Office continues not to support us in this vital work, we will be left with no other choice but to call for a full investigation and consultation.”
The Pre Action Protocol Letter to the Home Office can be read in full here.