Latitude organiser Melvin Benn reveals drug testing scheme for Reading and Leeds festivals
- Credit: PA
Some of Britain's biggest music festivals are expected to allow people to test their illegal drugs before they take them.
For the first time this summer, Reading and Leeds Festivals and a number of other live music events are aiming to introduce the scheme with the support of local police forces.
Melvin Benn from Festival Republic, revealed the pioneering scheme to the Press Association and expects it at 'between six and 10 festivals this year.'
Benn, who also organises Latitude Festival at Henham Park, near Southwold, has been working on the plan since last summer and is awaiting confirmation of support from West Yorkshire Police (WYP) and the National Police Chiefs' Council (NPCC).
He said: 'We talked about it during the summer of last year and the reality is that I took a decision that unless and until the NPCC supported the principle of it, it was difficult for us to move forward on it.'
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He said he has now seen a draft of an agreement that will make it easier for forces across the country to support the initiative. However he said it will not be at Download Festival next month.
'We'll see it this year for definite ...at Leeds I'm pretty certain,' he said.
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'It's taken a long time and it won't be at every festival, but where we think there is a need to do it we will be doing it.'
Festival-goers will be able to take their drugs to a testing tent run by The Loop, an organisation which usually conducts forensic testing of drugs seized by police. They will then tell them what is in the drugs before destroying whatever was handed over.
Last year, The Loop ran the scheme for the first time at a UK music festival when around 200 revellers tested their illegal drugs at Secret Garden Party in Cambridgeshire.
Founder of the organisation Fiona Measham said the initiative's expansion was 'radical.'
'It's really exciting that police are prioritising health and safety over criminal justice at festivals,' she said.
She believes up to 10 festivals will be involved this year, including a number of independent events, and hopes front-house testing will become commonplace in nightclubs and city centres in the future.
Last year, 17-year-old Lewis Haunch died after taking drugs at Leeds Festival while in the same year two teenagers died at T In The Park in reportedly drug-related incidents.
WYP assistant chief constable Andy Battle, who leads the policing operation for Leeds, said they were 'looking at the possibility of supporting the festival's organisers'.
He added: 'We can never condone the use of illegal drugs, but we recognise that some people will continue to take them and we need to adapt our approach in the interests of public safety.'