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26 Dec, 2023 14:27

British home secretary apologizes for date rape drug joke

James Cleverly made the remark on the same day that parliament discussed tightening laws against drink spiking
British home secretary apologizes for date rape drug joke

The UK home secretary has apologized for his “ironic joke” about giving his wife a date rape drug. The Sunday Mirror earlier reported that James Cleverly made the off-color remark just hours after announcing measures to tackle a drink spiking epidemic.

The cabinet minister allegedly told female guests at a December 18 private reception that “a little bit of Rohypnol in [his wife’s] drink every night,” was “not really illegal if it’s only a little bit.”

He reportedly joked that the secret to a long marriage was making sure your spouse is “someone who is always mildly sedated so she can never realize there are better men out there,” according to the tabloid.

Senior government figures, as well as numerous campaigners and charities, have expressed outrage.

Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper wrote on X (formerly Twitter) on Sunday that “spiking is a serious & devastating crime.” The Labour politician found it “unbelievable that the Home Secretary in charge of tackling violence against women & girls” could make the joke. “How can victims trust him to take this vile crime seriously?”

Rohypnol, one of a number of drugs colloquially known as “roofies,” has gained notoriety as a date-rape drug. Legally it is used for medical sedation, but regularly figures as a weapon in rape and other serious crimes. Almost 6,800 drink spiking offenses were reported in the UK between June 2022 and May 2023, according to official statistics. One in 10 women and one in 20 men said they had their drinks tampered with, according to a national survey last year.

On December 18, the UK government set out to update language in legislation to clearly outline what constitutes spiking under the Criminal Justice Bill. The maximum sentence for perpetrators will be 10 years in prison.

A spokesman for Cleverly said on Saturday the home secretary’s words came “in what was always understood as a private conversation,” and were “clearly meant to be an ironic joke – for which he apologises.”

The incident happened at a private reception at Downing Street 10, the residence of the prime minister. While conversations at these events are usually understood to be “off the record,” the Sunday Mirror explained, they decided to publish Mr Cleverly’s words due to the “exceptional circumstances” given his role, and the joke related to a specific crime he is tasked with fighting.