Police have handed out multiple £800 fines to students in Fallowfield for allegedly holding a ‘large gathering’ in their common room.
Officers entered halls of residence twice over the weekend in south Manchester to question students over their socialising.
Furious parents and students have accused Greater Manchester Police of heavy-handed tactics facilitated by the University of Manchester, the MEN reveals.
Students say police raided Owens Park halls of residence at around 11pm on Friday and 2:30am on Sunday over a potential breach of lockdown rules.
Under coronavirus law, police do not have power of entry and need a warrant to enter and search premises.
The exception to this rule is if they have ‘reasonable grounds to suspect that a person within is potentially infectious, and they need to direct or remove the person for screening and assessment’.
However, under the Manchester University’s student accommodation contracts, the uni and ‘anyone authorised’ by staff has the right to enter without prior notice.
GMP insist students who were fined showed ‘blatant disregard’ to the rules and that their ‘proactive patrols’ inside the accommodation were agreed with the uni in advance.
One student spoke to the MEN, saying that a number of her flatmates were issued £800 fines each on Friday because more than 15 people from the same block were in the common room.
She said: “There’s four floors with up to fourteen people on each one. Each floor is your household and at the start of the year the common room was locked.
“We asked for it to be unlocked because otherwise there’s nowhere else for us to sit other than our rooms. I think when police came there was about 15 people in the common room, but they were all from our block.
“The way the building is laid out makes it impossible not to mix between floors. People are always walking between floors. And when we go to the canteen we’re all put in there together.”
She continued: “They brought us into the common room and were getting people from other floors, there must have been 25 people in the end.
“We weren’t able to social distance so it seemed to really defeat the point. They said we were all getting an £800 for being part of a large gathering.
“People were weeping.”
“It’s stupid – they’re fining us for being in a student common room. This whole accommodation doesn’t fit the regulations.
“We’re all mingled together all the time, we can’t stop that, we share everything. People were really upset.”
Students were advised not to return to campus this term unless their course required face-to-face teaching like medicine, due to the latest national lockdown. One student estimated that around 70% of students did return.
The University of Manchester outlined its policy saying: “If you are living in a flat then this is considered to be a household. If you are living in halls that are corridor based then we have identified rooms (maximum of 15) that will be designated as a household and you will be required to ensure that you use the facilities which are for your household only.
“Any government guidance for households will apply in all cases.”
Students say they feel the issue did not require the involvement of the police.
One student said: “We got an email last week reminding us about parties. But nothing about the household rules and using the common room. It’s so disproportionate the force they applied.
“Today they knocked on my bedroom door at 2 in the morning when I was asleep. They said it was just to chase up some details about the night before.
“It’s awful, who’s letting them do this? I haven’t seen a Uni security guard this whole time, it’s just hordes of police.
“They turn up in a van with 10 to 15 of them and storm in at once and scare everyone to death. Surely campus security could have handled this?”
Another student added: “People were traumatised by it, we were literally just having dinner with friends.
“The police just wouldn’t understand. They said we shouldn’t be at uni in the first place and that we weren’t supposed to use the common rooms.
“It’s like walking into someone’s house, it wouldn’t happen in a normal household outside uni. It’s just cruel.
“Everyone is just terrified now and no one is leaving their rooms – we don’t know when police might come back.”
Manchester Christmas Market mug design has been revealed for 2021
The council has also confirmed how much it’ll cost if you want to keep your mug as a souvenir
Exciting Christmas news: The mug design for this year’s Christmas Markets has officially been unveiled.
For those who descend upon Manchester’s Christmas Markets each year, the highlight is undisputedly the warm (and boozy) drinks served in the trademark mugs, which feature different designs each year.
In previous years, designs have included interactive reindeer noses, Santa Clause, snowflakes, Christmas trees and mistletoe.
And as for this year?
Well, the design has officially been unveiled and, for the first time in the markets’ history, the mugs won’t feature the date; this is because they were originally designed for the markets that never happened in 2020.
This year’s design will instead feature a simple ‘Manchester Christmas Markets’ graphic with the words ‘Christmas is what you make it’ alongside an abundance of stars and snowflakes.
The mugs will be available in two sizes – a smaller navy gluhwein mug and a larger white mug for coffees and hot chocolates.
There will be around 80,000 mugs in total in circulation at the Christmas Markets, and as always there’s the option to take yours home as a souvenir.
Visitors will be required to pay a £3 deposit when ordering a hot drink, or £1.50 for beer and wine glasses, which will then be given back to you if you return your mug.
Manchester City Council’s Christmas spokesperson Councillor Pat Karney said: “Second only to the disappointment of the cancellation of last year’s Christmas Market was the realisation that there would be no Christmas Market mug!
“We know that some visitors have a complete collection of mugs going back more than 10 years – and we expect those people to be first in line for a warming gluhwein or hot chocolate.”
This comes just a week after it was announced that the markets’ ‘main hub’ will be moved from its usual spot at Albert Square to Piccadilly Gardens.
The area will be transformed into the ‘Winter Gardens’, with all the usual yuletide bars, market stalls and food huts.
Plans for the Winter Gardens also include a one-way system and separate entrances and exits, as well as a strict limit on visitors to limit the spread of Covid-19.
They are also adding a fully accessible toilet to make the Winter Garden as inclusive as possible.
Bonfire Night events and fireworks cancelled across Manchester
For the second year in a row, Bonfire Night firework displays and celebrations across Manchester have been cancelled.
As a result of ongoing fears surrounding the spread of Covid-19 and the current Government advice around large-scale events, the eight free council-organised events scheduled to take place next month will no longer be going ahead.
The events were planned for Heaton Park, Platt Fields Park, Wythenshawe Park, Crumpsall Park, the Eithad Campus, Cringle Park, Debdale Park and Brookdale Park.
Manchester City Council said that the guidance around Covid-19 safety has made the events ‘unworkable’ and that the ‘health of Manchester people has to come first’.
Councillor Rabnawaz Akbar, executive member for neighbourhoods, said: “This is not a decision we have taken lightly and I know that many people who look forward to these events will be disappointed, especially when we could not host them last year because of coronavirus restrictions.
“But the health of Manchester people, and the logistical considerations around that, has to come first.”
This comes after Greater Manchester Police Chief said he would ban fireworks if ‘given half the chance’; while appearing as a guest on BBC Radio Manchester, Chief Constable Stephen Watson said he has long held the view that ‘it’s only a matter of time before somebody gets killed’, stressing that it simply ‘cannot happen’.
When asked if he would ban fireworks altogether, he replied: “Given half a chance – yes I would. We’ve had people almost pointing rockets at passing vehicles and buses and putting them into telephone kiosks and all the rest of it.
“This goes a long way away from kids knocking around a bonfire and letting off a few fireworks and having fun. It’s that of course that we want to preserve. This is something we’re very much alive to.”
‘Smoking kills’ could be printed on every individual cigarette to encourage smokers to quit
The new proposal comes as the government clamps down on smoking across the UK
Tough new proposals to get more people to quit smoking could have ‘smoking kills’ printed on individual cigarettes.
MPs have submitted an amendment to the health and care bill going through parliament which would allow the health secretary to make graphic health warnings mandatory.
Mary Kelly Foy, the Labour MP behind the move, said, as per The Guardian: “We know that cigarettes are cancer sticks and kill half the people who use them. So I hope that health warnings on cigarettes would deter people from being tempted to smoke in the first place, especially young people.
“I hope it would encourage some smokers to give up because if they are putting that in their mouth and seeing that message on cigarettes every time they smoke, I hope it would have the desired effect.”
The other amendments proposed by Foy include raising the legal age for buying cigarettes from eighteen to twenty-one, preventing e-cigarette manufacturers from using marketing tactics that could encourage children to try them, such as sweet flavourings and cartoon characters, and making it illegal to give e-cigarette samples away for free, something that many companies have done in the past.
Though this isn’t a UK government’s first attempt to stamp down on the toxic habit; in 2008, a law was passed that required graphic images warning of the deadly effects of smoking to be shown on all cigarette packets.
A set of fifteen images were rotated while tar, nicotine, and carbon monoxide emission numbers were also shown on the side of packages.
Plain packaging was then fully implemented in the UK nearly a decade later in May 2017 for all cigarette and tobacco brands. This policy forced the removal of all brand images, colours and promotions, and instead required all packaging to be standardised in terms of shape, colour and text design.
Deborah Arnott, chief executive of Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), said on the proposed requirements: “Warnings on cigarettes were suggested over forty years ago by then health minister George Young.
“The tobacco companies, with breathtaking hypocrisy, protested that the ink would be toxic to smokers. The truth is cigarette stick warnings are toxic to big tobacco and this is an idea whose time has come.”