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.”
Around 20 people involved in mass brawl ‘with knives’ in Piccadilly Gardens
The violence spilled out into the street
A large group of people were involved in a mass fight ‘with knives’ in Piccadilly Gardens last night.
Around 20 people were caught up in the large brawl on Monday evening, and according to reports some were armed with knives.
The fight took place outside Morrisons on the end of Oldham Street, and happened around 9:30pm.
Witnesses reported seeing some of the suspects carrying knives, although police didn’t recover any from the scene, and busses were forced to stop as the violence spread out onto the road.
Someone who witnessed the fight said on Twitter: “Piccadilly gardens is the roughest place on earth… a lovely night out helping ruined by a group of young kids kicking each others faces in”.
Officers responded to the incident, but no arrests were made or serious injuries reported.
This incident was the third of serious violence in just a few days.
Saturday afternoon saw another incident outside Morrisons in Piccadilly Gardens, in which a man was slashed in the face.
And on Sunday a brawl involving two tables at Barca bar in Castlefield happened, with some involved arming themselves with weapons like bar furniture and a baseball bat.
Leading scientists call for end of face masks and social distancing by June
Do you agree?
Leading scientists have written to the UK government calling for social distancing and face masks to be scrapped from June.
In total 22 scientists have signed the communication, saying that these measures should finish on June 22nd – the same date limits on social contact are set to be scrapped in England.
One of the scientists who has added their name to the letter is Dr Roland Salmon, the former director of the communicable disease centre in Wales.
Dr Salmon told BBC Radio Wales: “I am not venting my frustration but I do think some dialogue is well overdue.
“I have always felt that there has been little credible evidence benefit for many of the measures that we take.”
According to him, the letter was written to encourage the government to focus on protecting vulnerable people rather than the masses as we move forward.
Dr Salmon said we need to deal with the ‘here and now’ when asked about the threat of variants, going on to add that the vaccine has shown it helps prevent severe disease and death.
He added: “We can’t stop living forever while we wait for things to happen”.
Scientists who’ve signed the letter include Prof Robert Dingwall from Nottingham Trent University, who sits on the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (NERVTAG).
There’s also Prof Anthony Brookes, a geneticist and health data scientist at the University of Leicester, and Prof Carl Heneghan, director of the Centre for Evidence Based Medicine at Oxford University.
The letter reads: “We are being told simultaneously that we have successful vaccines and that major restrictions on everyday life must continue indefinitely. Both propositions cannot be true.
“We need to give more weight to the data on the actual success of the vaccines and less to theoretical risks of vaccine escape and/or surge in a largely vaccinated population.”
It continues: “Covid-19 no longer requires exceptional measures of control in everyday life, especially where there have been no evaluations and little credible evidence of benefit.
“Measures to reduce or discourage social interaction are extremely damaging to the mental health of citizens; to the education of children and young people; to people with disabilities; to new entrants to the workforce; and to the spontaneous personal connections from which innovation and enterprise emerge.”
Boris Johnson is regarded as ‘untrustworthy’ by six out of 10 voters
It follows weeks of allegations against the PM
According to a new poll Boris Johnson is seen as ‘untrustworthy’ by six out of 10 voters in Britain, with Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer seen as more trustworthy.
The poll from Ipsos MORI was shared by the Evening Standard, and comes after weeks of leaks and allegations about sleaze aimed at the prime minister.
The research found that Mr Johnson is trusted by just 35% of voters and deemed untrustworthy by 59%, while Sir Keir is seen as trustworthy by 42% and is untrusted by 41%.
Gideon Skinner, head of political research at Ipsos MORI, said: “On honesty Boris Johnson is clearly trumped by Keir Starmer, so this is an area of potential risk for him.
“However, his own supporters still trust him, and the public overall have never seen it as one of his strongest attributes … and as previous leaders such as Tony Blair have shown, you don’t have to be ahead on trust to win elections.
“The key question is whether and if these stories continue and start to change the public’s overall view on him as PM.”
The poll was taken following weeks of reports about murky donations being used to refurbish the prime minister’s flat, as well as disclosures about covert lobbying.
However, it was undertaken before the most recent allegations that Mr Johnson said he’d rather see ‘bodies pile high’ than have another lockdown, so those reports won’t have been taken into consideration by those polled.
Despite all the recent controversy, the prime minister and government’s net satisfaction hasn’t changed much since March, with both Mr Johnson (44 satisfied/50 dissatisfied) and Sir Keir (36/46) having net negative ratings.
Ipsos MORI interviewed 1090 adults across the UK by telephone from April 16th to the 22nd – you can find full details here.