Leeds Festival: Coroner fears more teenagers could die after taking drugs at the event
It comes after 16-year-old David Celino, from Worsley in Greater Manchester, fell ill and died after taking one-and-a-half ecstasy pills at the event last year.
Coroner Kevin McLoughlin has called on organisers Festival Republic, the Government, West Yorkshire Police and Leeds City Council to do more to prevent future deaths, after he conducted the teenager’s inquest last week.
He said a “hydra headed campaign” is needed "to deter illicit drugs being brought onto the festival site" in Bramham Park and “create a hostile environment” for the dealers.
The coroner said festival staff and volunteers may need additional training, to help them spot people who have fallen ill after taking drugs, as no one stepped in to help Mr Celino for almost two hours even though he was “unable to walk straight, pale, sweating profusely and agitated".
In his report, he said an organisation with oversight of festivals is needed to establish the “breadth and depth of the drug problem at different events” and organisers should keep a record of how many under 18s are attending their festivals.
Mr McLoughlin also said festival organisers need clear guidance, from the Home Office, about whether they can allow trained volunteers to test festival goers’ drugs on site and figure out exactly what they have bought and how those substances can affect them.
He said Mr Celino and his friends, who were attending the festival after collecting their GCSE results, had “little experience of illicit drugs” and “no information” about the strength or potential dangers of the ecstasy pills they bought.
“They were attending a music festival for the first time without adult supervision," he added.
"Their parents did not have sufficient information about the availability of and use of drugs at the festival to make an informed assessment of the risk to their sons."
At the inquest last week, the teenager’s father Gianpiero Celino said he was concerned drug dealers who operate like “the child catcher in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” are able to prey on youngsters because security is lax.
He also warned “the ticket that signals the death of another young person has already been sold”.
Melvin Benn, founder and organiser of the festival, told the inquest he felt “genuine sorrow” for the family and said this year’s event, which takes place this weekend, will have a much more visible security and help presence.
He said he believed the provision of AIR (assistance, information and response) Hubs at the festival, staffed by volunteers rather than security staff, was the best way to provide support to youngsters.
But he also said it was impossible to stop drugs getting onto the festival site, as staff cannot search every single bag and tent.
Following the death of 17-year-old Anya Buckley from a drugs-related death at the festival in 2019, the same coroner issued a report which urged organisers to think about whether unaccompanied 16 and 17-year-olds should be allowed into the event.