Hundreds of Northern Ireland students have been suspended and hit with fines totalling over £13,000 for breaking lockdown restrictions.
ueen’s University Belfast has imposed sanctions on 109 students for coronavirus-related offences, while Ulster University said it has dealt with 146 transgressions.
A total of £9,720 was issued in fines from QUB, while UU, which does not issue automatic monetary punishments, imposed fines of £225 for non-attendance at disciplinary hearings.
QUB said it levies fines of £120 on every student reported to it by the PSNI for Covid breaches, so the total fines will amount to £13,080 once collected.
MLA Robbie Butler hit out at students “who callously and dangerously flout regulations meant to save lives”.
“Those who are breaking regulations are doing a disservice to not only themselves but more importantly their families and the community in which they live,” the UUP education spokesman said.
“They are also showing our front line NHS heroes exactly what they think of their efforts.”
Incidents involving students include house parties – the legacy of pubs and clubs being closed as part of coronavirus restrictions.
The situation in the Holyland student area of south Belfast at the start of September sparked an intervention by the PSNI and stark warnings were issued by the universities detailing how they expect their students to behave.
Since term started on September 21, of the 109 students disciplined by QUB, 90 were given an emergency precaution suspension, meaning they were suspended with further disciplinary outcomes given or pending. The remaining 19 received a disciplinary outcome but were not suspended.
And while over 100 were disciplined, only 86 were informed of the extent of the disciplinary action taken against them.
In total, 81 were fined £120, whilst receiving a written warning as well as a conditional discharge for other offences. A further five have had their incidents directed to the committee of discipline.
Money taken in fines is used for community projects.
A QUB spokeswoman said students reported by the police are automatically suspended.
“In addition to the suspensions, a number of students have also been issued with fines,” she said. “For the most serious or persistent breaches, some cases will be subsequently considered by the University’s disciplinary committee where additional measures may be considered.”
She added: “Money received from fines is put towards community projects.”
UU said 146 students were suspended for 14 days or until they came before the student disciplinary committee, with individuals required to complete the compulsory training course and reflective submission before the suspension is lifted.
An Ulster University spokeswoman said students issued with a Covid-1 notice receive a fine from the PSNI.
“Our compulsory training course and reflective submission arising from Covid breaches are designed to address and positively influence behaviour in relation to the measures in place to keep us all safe,” she said.
“These require students to fully consider their civic responsibilities in the context of Covid-19.
“The £225 in additional fines incurred by the student disciplinary committee concerns three individuals who failed to attend their disciplinary hearings,” the spokeswoman added.