Mum of Leeds Festival drug death teenager calls for age limit change to 'empower parents'

The mum of a 17-year-old girl who died after taking a cocktail of drugs at Leeds Festival has said that the risk of young teenagers taking illicit substances “increases massively" at festivals.

Thursday, 15th April 2021, 6:00 am
Updated Thursday, 15th April 2021, 10:03 am
Anya Buckley

Anya Buckley, who went to the 2019 Leeds Festival with a group of friends of similar age, collapsed and later died after taking drugs including ecstasy.

Her mum Lisa Bulmer has said drug culture at festivals means they are "dangerous places" for unsupervised young teenagers.

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Anya Buckley

Miss Bulmer said she did not want Anya to go to Leeds Festival but felt powerless to stop her as 16 and 17 year olds are allowed to attend unsupervised.

Miss Bulmer said: "If your child doesn't normally use illicit substances there's a chance they will do because they are going to a festival because it's the festival culture and there's a large amount of drugs in circulation at festivals.

"The chances they will do increases massively because of the culture at festivals."

Miss Bulmer, who is campaigning for the unsupervised admission age limit to be raised to 18, spoke out after three men - including 18 year old Luke Jones - were sentenced at Leeds Crown Court on Monday after admitting conspiracy to supply ecstasy at Leeds Festival in August 2019.

The court heard Anya had told a friend at the festival that she had agreed to smuggle some drugs into the festival for Jones, who had offered her free drugs for doing so.

Miss Bulmer said: "You are vulnerable to peer pressure when you are 16 or 17 and you don't always make the right decisions."

She added: "Festivals are dangerous places for teenagers.

"There are a lot of risks and temptations associated with teenagers attending festivals because of the amount of drugs in circulation."

Miss Bulmer, of Oldham, said she was not aware her daughter was using illicit drugs.

She said she has since learned Anya had experimented with recreational drugs, but was not a regular user.

Miss Bulmer said: "I wasn't comfortable about Anya going to a festival, but I felt powerless because all her friends were going.

"And the fact that you are allowed to go at 16, I felt like I couldn't stop her.

"A change in the licensing age will give a parent more power to say you are not allowed to go because you are not 18.

"It will empower parents to prevent their child from attending if they know that they have got to be 18 to go."

Medical staff tried to revive Anya, but she was declared dead just after 3.30am on August 24, 2019.

Toxicology results showed Anya had a combination of ecstasy, ketamine and cocaine in her system.

A pathologist concluded she died from mixed drug toxicity and said ecstasy toxicity is likely to have been the central factor in her death.

Leeds Crown Court heard Luke Jones, 18, is believed to have supplied ecstasy to Anya at the festival.

Jones, of Lauren Close, Oldham, admitted conspiring to supply ecstasy between August 1 and 25 2019.

Jones was jailed for two years and eight months.

During sentencing, Judge Simon Batiste said: "It has been said by young people attending Leeds Festival and similar music events are seen as rights of passage.

"It is clear from what I have been told, drug use is widespread at these events.

"Police recovered very large amounts of drugs, some "£120,000 worth, at the 2019 festival alone.

"Presumably this was just the tip of the iceberg in terms of drugs consumed at the festival."

A coroner raised concerns about 16 and 17 year olds being allowed at Leeds Festival unsupervised at an inquest held into Anya's death held at Wakefield Coroner's Court in January.

Senior Coroner Kevin McLoughlin said he was concerned that 16 and 17-year-olds are allowed to go to the festival unsupervised in a situation where drugs are available and young teenagers are “easy prey.”

After recording a conclusion of drug-related death, Mr McLoughlin said he would send a Regulation 28 prevention of future deaths report to Leeds City Council and ask the local authority to consider increasing the minimum age for unsupervised festival-goers.

The council, which grants a premises licence to the festival, is currently preparing a report how deaths can be avoided at future stagings of Leeds Festival.

Miss Bulmer has attended two remote meetings with Leeds City Council.

She said: "Leeds City Council have been really good. They have really wanted to hear my views.

"They have been very accommodating with me and I can't praise them enough for that."

A Leeds City Council spokesperson said: “We would like to offer our sincere condolences to Anya’s family and all other families who have experienced a similar tragedy.

"We are carefully considering the coroner’s report and will take any action deemed appropriate.”