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UK music festivals to allow drug testing

Following a number of drug related deaths in recent years, six UK music festivals are allowing the testing of illegal drugs on site.

Reading and Leeds are two of the festivals aiming to introduce the scheme, which has the support of local police forces.

“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,” said Melvin Benn, Festival Republic.

The scheme was revealed to the Press Association and is expected to be rolled out at up to 10 festivals in 2017.

“We’ll see it this year for definite, at Leeds [festival] I’m pretty certain,” said Benn. “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 called The Loop, which is run by the organisation that tests drugs seized by police. The organisation can then tell festival-goers what is in the drug before destroying what was handed over.

At Secret Garden Party in 2016, 200 people tested their illegal drugs in the scheme.

Founder of the organisation, Fiona Measham, labelled the scheme as “radical”. “It’s really exciting that police are prioritising health and safety over criminal justice at festivals.”

“We are looking at the possibility of supporting the festival’s organisers,” said assistant chief constable Andy Battle, West Yorkshire Police. “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.”