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Three men arrested after drug-related deaths cause festival to be cut short

By | Published on Tuesday 29 May 2018


Three men have been arrested after two people died in drug-related incidents at a music festival in Portsmouth this weekend. The three men are being held by police on suspicion of being concerned in the supply of class A drugs.

The second day of Portsmouth’s Mutiny Festival was cancelled following the deaths of festival-goers Georgia Jones and Tommy Cowan on Saturday night. Prior to the cancellation, organisers of the event put out an alert on social media stating that they had been made aware of “a dangerous high-strength or bad-batch substance on site” and therefore strongly urged festival-goers to refrain from taking any drugs while at the event.

Promoters subsequently announced that “following the terrible news from earlier today, the team behind Mutiny Festival are incredibly sad to announce that the Sunday of the festival has been cancelled as a safety precaution”.

A later statement on Sunday evening added: “We would like to apologise for the cancellation of today’s festival. But in the light of yesterday’s tragic circumstances our decision was supported by the police, that we needed to safeguard our festival family and respect the young people who sadly lost their lives”.

On more practical measures, the statement went on: “We are of course aware that many people are asking about refunds – we are actively working with our insurers and will update on this position as soon as we’re able. We would like to thank people for their patience and understanding under these very difficult circumstances”.

According to local police, Jones was taken ill at 7.10pm on Saturday evening, while Cowan was found collapsed 20 minutes later. A further thirteen festival-goers were admitted to the local hospital, although it is not known how many of those were drugs-related. Police said that the two deaths were separate incidents and were not suspicious.

It is statements from the Jones and Cowan families that have confirmed that drugs were involved in both incidents. Meanwhile Mutiny Festival organisers urged all ticket-holders to “responsibly dispose of any substances”.

This weekend’s tragic events will further fuel the debate around how best to prevent drug-related harm at music events. That harm is often caused when people buy drugs that are of a higher strength than they are used to, or contain substances different to those that they think they have acquired.

This is why drug testing services like those provided by drug safety charity The Loop are so important, and would ideally be rolled out to more festivals and clubs. Festival promoters and club operators can instigate ‘zero tolerance’ drug policies of course, but we know that will rarely mean zero drugs on site, making harm prevention initiatives like those promoted by The Loop much more likely to save lives.