Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 1 February 2015

Queen’s fines students thousands for trouble

Riot police in the Holy Land on St Patrick's Day
Alan Lewis - Photopress Belfast 17/3/2009..Serious rioting erupted this evening in the 'Holy Land' area of Belfast as police in full riot gear were called in to restore order as students and their friends 'celebrating' St Patrick's Day, ran amok in the Carmel Street area wrecking and attempting to set fire to cars. Oofficials from Queens University tried to defuse the situation but tensions remain high and with hundreds more people pouring into the area, there are fears of further violence. Police in riot gear with dogs, eventually cleared Carmel Street and there were clashes between them and students as they re-claimed the street.

Queen's University has pocketed £10,000 from fining loutish students over the past two years.

Nearly 140 Queen’s students have been slapped with fines of between £25 and £250 in 2007 and 2008 in a bid to crack down on drunken rampages in student enclaves like the troubled Holy Land area.

However, the revelation has prompted Holy Land resident David Farrell to complain the university is more concerned with making money than taking a tough line on tackling the ongoing problem of students going on the rampage.

The university has the power to expel those students found guilty of anti-social behaviour but it has not expelled anyone as yet.

Mr Farrell said: “The university pays lip-service to the anti-social behaviour problem but I don’t think there is any real will there to do anything about it. If you look at it in terms of a business it is a matter of bums on seats. Each student is paying £3,000 to £5,000 a year and if they take it seriously and send out a strong message and expel a student that means a loss of that money. It also has the potential of putting off prospective students. It is a case of money talks.

“It is being swept under the carpet. It is a massive social problem.”

He added: “The money (from the fines) would be best put into getting more university staff on the ground at trouble times between 1.30am to 3am,” he said.

It is understood the money from the fines goes into the university’s Community Affairs Unit, which a Queen’s University spokeswoman said tackles students’ anti-social behaviour.

A spokeswoman for Queen’s University added: “The university fully investigates every complaint and students are liable to the full rigours of the university’s Disciplinary Code. The university will not hesitate to use the full range of actions open to it in line with the evidence produced.”

The cash penalties, which have been employed by the university since 2005, have meant 67 anti-social students paying for their bad behaviour in 2007, raising at least £4,520 for Queen’s coffers.

Seventy students were also told to dig deep for running riot in 2008, racking up £5,925 in fines.

The criticism comes after the St Patrick’s Day rampage in the Holy Land in which a wall of riot police blanketed the area to deal with drunken rioters on a wrecking spree.

Five people appeared in court the day after the drunken scenes charged with a raft of offences in relation to the rioting.

A PSNI unit set up to scour CCTV footage of the trouble has since caught another five men, including a 16-year-old youth, on camera and charged them with disorderly behaviour.

A 26-year-old Co Armagh man was fined £350 at Belfast Magistrates Court on Tuesday, April 7. Damien McStravick, of Parknasilla Way in Aghagallon, admitted shouting and swearing at police officers in Jerusalem Street on St Patrick's Day.

Nearly 180 students have been hauled before the university’s disciplinary panel over the past two years to answer allegations of anti-social behaviour.

Two anti-social students are currently in danger of not graduating because they have not stumped up a total of £150 in fines. Their e-mail and library accounts have been suspended and they are unable to register for their summer exams until they pay their penalties.

Six students who had not paid their fines over the two-year period have since left the university of their own accord.

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