Police could back plan for fans to get the contents of illegal drugs checked out at Leeds Festival
Fans with illegal drugs at a major Yorkshire music festival may be able to get their contents forensically tested by an authorised on-site service instead of taking them '˜blind'.
An organisation called The Loop normally carries out testing on drugs seized by police but last year it also offered a voluntary scheme for people attending the Secret Garden Party festival in Cambridgeshire.
Now plans have been announced for the service to be introduced at this summer’s Leeds Festival, with event organisers hoping their idea will win the backing of West Yorkshire Police.
Supporters say it allows people to make informed decisions about whether to take drugs they have in their possession.
Very high-strength ecstasy pills were found to be in circulation at the Secret Garden Party along with anti-malaria tablets that had been sold as ketamine.
Lewis Haunch, 17, from Leigh, Greater Manchester, died last summer after taking drugs at Leeds Festival.
Two other teenagers died at Scotland’s T In The Park event last year in incidents that were reported to be drug related.
Leeds Festival boss Melvin Benn, who also organises music events such as Latitude and Wireless, said: “We’ll see it this year for definite ... at Leeds I’m pretty certain.
“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.”
Mr Benn added: “We talked about it during the summer of last year and the reality is that I took a decision that unless and until the [National Police Chiefs’ Council] supported the principle of it, it was difficult for us to move forward on it.”
He said he had now seen a draft of an agreement that will make it easier for forces across the country to support the initiative.
Fiona Measham, founder of The Loop, described the proposed move as “radical”, adding: “It’s really exciting that police are prioritising health and safety over criminal justice at festivals.”
West Yorkshire Police assistant chief constable Andy Battle confirmed the force was “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.
“Consuming controlled drugs is inherently dangerous and the tragic consequences of this have been illustrated with drugs-related deaths at the event in recent years.
“We will continue to work closely with the on-site security team to target the possession and supply of controlled drugs and the criminal law will be applied appropriately as necessary.”
This year’s Leeds Festival will take place at Bramham Park, near Wetherby, over the August Bank Holiday weekend.
Tens of thousands of fans will attend the event, featuring artists such as Muse, Kasabian, Eminem and Liam Gallagher.
The festival has been held at Bramham Park each year since 2003, when it moved from its previous home at Temple Newsam in east Leeds.