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Students suspended as almost 200 Covid notices issued after Belfast Holyland unrest

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General views of the Agincourt Avenue area of the Holyland in south Belfast on September 17th 2020 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

General views of the Agincourt Avenue area of the Holyland in south Belfast on September 17th 2020 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph

General views of the Agincourt Avenue area of the Holyland in south Belfast on September 17th 2020 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

A number of students have been suspended from Queen's University following disorder in the Holyland area of south Belfast in recent days.

The university received notifications of coronavirus regulation breaches from the PSNI, which led to the suspension of the students for two weeks.

A spokesperson for the university said: "[QUB] investigates every complaint it receives and applies disciplinary measures as appropriate in accordance with our student code of conduct regulations.

"In addition, if the University receives notification of a COVID breach from the PSNI, students will be suspended with immediate effect for 14 days. Ulster University have introduced a similar policy. A number of these suspensions have been issued over recent days.

“Queen’s University and Ulster University work in partnership with Belfast City Council and the PSNI as well as other colleges and statutory agencies to tackle incidents of anti-social behaviour or breaches of public health guidelines," they said.

The Ulster University and Belfast Met were also asked if sanctions were made against any of their students. They did not respond.

On Monday night, police said they issued 37 Covid notices, 10 prohibition notices, and one Community Resolution notice in the hours leading into Tuesday morning as part of the ongoing operation to address antisocial and criminal activity in the Holyland and Stranmillis area of south Belfast.

It brings to 197 the number of Covid notices issued in the past week, along with 30 prohibition notices and 11 Community Resolution notices in total.

Speaking on Tuesday, Chief Inspector Gavin Kirkpatrick said: “In addition to attending and stopping a number of parties last night, we also had to contend with large numbers of young people congregating in the Agincourt Avenue area.

"While police, council officers and university representatives engaged with many of the young people to give them advice and guidance, it is critical that young people who have moved to the area take personal responsibility for their behaviour.

"To date, our preliminary enquiries have indicated that the majority of people we’ve issued Covid notices to in the area are not students," he said.

Chief Inspector Kirkpatrick made a further appeal to the public not to visit or attend parties in the area.

"I again appeal to parents and guardians to speak with their young people, to ensure they know where they are, who they are with and what they are doing. Parents and guardians who allow young people to visit friends or attend parties in this residential area are not helping this situation.

“If you have moved to the Holyland area, you must adhere to the Health Protection Regulations to protect yourselves and others from Covid19. You must also be good neighbours as the residents of this area who are fed up dealing with anti-social and criminal behaviour on their doorsteps.

“Our robust policing operation will continue over the coming days with our partner agencies, including representatives from Belfast City Council and both universities."

Meanwhile, Health Minister Robin Swann on Monday insisted that any move to clamp down on house parties in Belfast’s Holylands student area must not punish others living in similar accommodation in Northern Ireland.

Robin Swann said he was concerned about a potential inadvertent consequence of targeting coronavirus rules on houses of multiple occupancy (HMOs).

"There does need to be a care and a caution that any regulation that was brought forward in regards solely based on houses of multiple occupancy was also equitable across the entirety of Northern Ireland,” he said.

“Or anybody who was resident in a house of multiple occupancy, should that be not just students in the Holylands, but also those out of social need or lack of housing in certain areas, that they weren’t penalised adversely by any regulation or guidance that was brought in specifically to deal with what is anti-social behaviour in the Holylands.”

Belfast Telegraph