Thirty-two university students caught ignoring the ‘Rule of Six’ were all fined by police this weekend after patrols were stepped up to target those persistently flouting the law.
Four groups of up to nine people at the University of Essex, some of whom had attended house parties, while others had met in other areas on the Colchester campus, were approached and ordered to pay £200 by officers on Friday and Saturday night.
The firm approach was taken after a video circulated online last week, appearing to show dozens of students breaking the rules with a large party, with officers having made ‘repeated warnings’.
However, some on social media were critical of the force’s action over the weekend, despite the patrols being well-publicised.
Anger centred around the issuing of fines for a group gathered in a university car park, with one user responding to the police’s post about it by calling them ‘pathetic bullies’.
Another wrote: ‘I honestly read this believing I would hear that Essex police had broke up a big house party and issued fines, but no. 7 people in a car park. 8 people in a house.
‘And they come on Facebook to brag about it! SHAME ON YOU ESSEX POLICE.’
Some 32 students, some of whom had attended house parties, while others had met in other areas on the Colchester campus, pictured, were approached and ordered to pay £200 by officers over the weekend
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The force says it has been working closely with campus staff to offer support in engaging with students, and ensuring they understand and follow the restrictions.
The university has put a series of measures in place to make sure students follow the guidelines and are doing their bit to stop the spread of the virus and keep each other safe.
The majority of students have listened and followed the current guidelines, but Essex Police says a ‘small minority’ continued to break the rules and officers stepped up patrols at the campus and surrounding areas over the weekend.
On Friday night officers found a group of seven people congregating in a car park at the university, all of which were issued with £200 fixed penalty notices.
On Saturday evening, officers were called to two house parties in Albany Road, Colchester, both of which had eight people inside, all of whom were issued with fines.
And during a foot patrol on the campus with university security staff on Saturday night officers also came across nine students from different accommodation who were congregating in a courtyard and they were also issued with fixed penalty notices.
Chief Inspector Rob Huddleston, District Commander for Colchester said: ‘We have worked really closely with the University of Essex to support them in explaining the current restrictions to their students around the rule of six.
‘Our approach is always to explain and engage with people first around the current Covid-19 regulations, as we want to give people the benefit of the doubt and the opportunity to do the right thing and stop the spread of the virus.
‘However, as we have always said, where people repeatedly flout the rules, we will take enforcement action. Sadly, this turned out to be the case over the weekend where, during our patrols, we found groups meeting up, and in two cases having house parties.
‘We don’t want to ruin anyone’s fun, but we all have a legal and ethical responsibility to stop the spread of the virus, protect each other, our communities and the NHS.
Chief Inspector Rob Huddleston, District Commander for Colchester, pictured, explained that enforcement action will be taken against those who ‘do not listen to us and selfishly flout the rules repeatedly’
The firm approach was taken after a video circulated online last week, appearing to show dozens of students flouting the rules with a large party, with officers having made ‘repeated warnings’
‘In cases where people do not listen to us and selfishly flout the rules repeatedly, they can expect that we will deal with them by taking enforcement action.
‘Ultimately we all want the same thing – to stop the spread of the coronavirus and to see police officers doing what they do best, protecting victims and the vulnerable and catching criminals, so please help us do that by following the rules.’
Last week saw a video posted online of around 30 youngsters, believed to be students at Essex, ignoring the Rule of Six and partying.
It led to one staff member admitting they are concerned about returning to campus, claiming to feel ‘like a canary in a coal mine’, according to the Daily Gazette.
Vanessa Potter, Director of External Relations at the University of Essex said today: ‘The University is committed to the health and wellbeing of our students and the wider community.
‘At this challenging time, we have made clear that all students must comply with Covid Regulations, and we are really proud that they are almost all taking this seriously and doing so.
‘We were made aware of a few who were not, and so we asked the police to support us in managing these cases.
‘This is not about stopping people having fun; it is about protecting the wider student population, our staff and the local community. We continue to work in partnership with our students and Essex Police to ensure we keep everyone safe.’
Fixed penalty notices of £200 can be issued to those caught taking part in gatherings of more than six people, this will reduce to £100 if paid within 28 days.
For persistent offenders the fixed penalty amount doubles for each subsequent offence. Those caught organising an unlawful gathering can face a fine of £10,000.
- Do you know any students involved? Get in touch: firstname.lastname@example.org or 0203 615 2853