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Advice from Community Engagement

Not anti-social? It’s easy to find yourself in a situation you didn’t expect

"When it comes to keeping yourself on the right side of the law, a few simple, common sense rules will keep you safe and won’t impact on your studies or long-term career plans", says Dee Corbett, Queen’s University's Community Engagement Manager 

Lanyon Roof

These are frustrating times, especially for students  

It has been a difficult year, without question; but as the days begin to brighten, you may feel tempted to throw caution to the winds. So I felt it was important to set out the serious consequences a breach of Public Health COVID restrictions can have.

One of the many appeals we hear from those who have breached COVID restrictions is: “I had only just arrived", or "I was only there for five minutes to drop something off." We also know how easy it is to breach the PH restrictions, when, although there is no visiting of private homes at this time, exemptions apply.

What you don’t want is to end up with the PSNI investigating you and a referral to the University, says Dee. One breach’ is enough to end up in a difficult situation which can impact your future.

It’s easy to find yourself reported 

Something as simple as playing loud music can land you in trouble. It is very easy to be reported to the Council or PSNI for noise disturbance, without you being aware. By then, it’s already too late. Neighbours or members of the public can and do report houses for causing disturbances.

Something as simple as this may indicate to someone that you are having a party. This is when things get serious. If a member of the public suspects a COVID breach during the current level of restrictions and they report it, the PSNI will investigate.

Visits to private dwellings are still not allowed - and it only takes one incident...

Police will attend a property  

The PSNI will and DO investigate such reports, and there is a procedure to how they deal with it.

Under the Public Health Covid Regulations 2020 currently, when someone makes a complaint PSNI will attend your home. They have powers to enter your property if they believe you are breaching COVID regulations. With force if necessary. 

If you have breached Public Health Covid Regulations, PSNI will issue you with a 'COV4' ticket, a £200 fine, and you could also be issued with a 'COV2' notice, if you live at the property.

Everyone present in the property is guilty of a breach of COVID regulations and will be issued with a COV4 ticket and fine. If you have previously received one, the police record will show this and you will then be reported to the Public Prosecution Service, PPS. You could be prosecuted through Court for the breach. This could result in a criminal record. 

PSNI also notify Universities and Colleges 

Students of Queen’s University are also bound by conduct regulations. These regulations apply to all students, at all times, from the moment you join university until you graduate or leave. Queen’s Community Engagement team will – and do – investigate reports brought by PSNI or members of the public.

Students will be automatically suspended if issued with a COV4 or COV2 for a period of 14 days, to ensure you self-isolate, protect your family and the public.

When an investigation takes place, further penalties can be applied, up to expulsion if it is classified as a major breach.

Community Engagement conducts investigations and we request students to supply a full statement for the Investigation Report.  

Some of the most common breaches we’ve investigated include:  

  • Breaching COVID-19 guidance/regulations: the standard penalty is a written warning and a fine of £250. 
  • Minor anti-social disturbance, including off-campus noise disturbance: the standard penalty is a written warning and a fine of £150 
  • Behaviour which brings, or may bring, the name of the University into disrepute: the standard penalty is Suspension 
  • Major breach or repeated breaches of COVID-19 guidance and/or regulations: the standard penalty is Expulsion 

Disciplinary Procedures  

The best way to avoid disciplinary action is to avoid a disturbance or breach of COVID restrictions initially.  Once the complaint has been made and the investigation is complete, the case is reviewed, by a Disciplinary Officer, who will decide on the penalties to be applied.  Community Engagement then notify the student within eight working days of the Disciplinary Officer outcome  

How it can affect students for the long-term

Unfortunately, if police do issue a COVID ticket, you will have a police record; if reported to the Public Prosecution Service (PPS), this can result in a Criminal record.

A police record may appear in future Access NI checks, for certain vocations, teaching, health sciences etc, which employers can see 

Access NI supplies criminal history information, upon request, to organisations and individuals, primarily to help them make safer recruitment decisions.

'Fitness to Practice’ issues can result for those students on programmes leading directly into professions (for example, medicine, dentistry, nursing and midwifery, psychology, teaching, pharmacy, professional legal training, health and leisure), subject to academic, behavioural and health requirements which must be met to ensure suitability to practise.

How students feel as a result of their actions 

Students have stated how difficult it has been once they realise how serious it is. The impact on their future, their studies, their well-being and health can be significant. They often say: it was a silly/stupid decision’ or we had only just arrived at the property’; but that’s all it takes to breach the rules.

So make sure you adhere to the rules and regulations at all times. 

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