Universities pledge to keep freshers safe against drug use

As hundreds of students head to the North East to begin their studies, the region’s universities have pledged to keep freshers safe.

It has been two years since the tragic death of undergraduates Jeni Larmour and Nathaniel Pavlovic who died just hours after arriving in the city.

Newcastle University student Jeni, 18, from Northern Ireland, was found unresponsive at her halls at Park View Student Village, on Richardson Road, during the early hours of Saturday October 3 2020. She was sadly pronounced dead at the scene and fellow student Kavir Kalliecharan was later charged with possession of MDMA (a class A drug), possession of ketamine (a class B drug) and possession of cannabis, as part of the investigation into Jeni’s death.

The 19-year-old politics student, of Coleridge Close in Leeds, pleaded guilty to the offences and was given a two-year conditional discharge and ordered to pay £85 costs and a £21 victim surcharge.

Read more:Newcastle University gets £720,000 funding towards hunt for drug to treat rare dementia

Just after 8am on Sunday October 4 2020 it was reported that Northumbria University student, Nathaniel, 21, from Halifax in West Yorkshire, had become ill at his digs on Melbourne Street. He was taken to hospital where he died a short time later. An inquest heard that he died after taking substances which were ‘yet to be identified’.

Jeni Larmour, pictured in 2018
Jeni Larmour, pictured in 2018

In the last year, many students across the UK have also raised concerns about drinks spiking and spiking by injection incidents during nights out. Durham and Newcastle were among the cities to stage a boycott of nightclubs in autumn last year.

Ahead of the new academic year, North East universities have told of the measures put in place to keep freshers safe while studying in the region.

A Newcastle University spokesperson said: “At Newcastle, we work very hard to educate our students about the dangers of drug use and to support those affected by their own use or that of someone they know. We take a harm reduction stance on student drug use, focusing on safeguarding, education, support and effective policies and procedures.

“Our teams work collaboratively with Northumbria Police, Student Health and Wellbeing, Accommodation and Student Progress, to take appropriate action to both safeguard our community, while ensuring vulnerable students are effectively supported. We would strongly encourage any student to seek support through our Student Health and Wellbeing Service if they do use, or plan to use, drugs.”

Durham University works with the County Durham Drug and Alcohol Recovery Service to offer support and education for students and staff. Those who have concerns about drug or alcohol-related issues, can contact a dedicated email account is specifically for the use of members of the Durham University community, which can be found here.

In its drugs policy, the University of Sunderland said it will “always take an appropriate and proportionate response against any student or employee found to be taking, under the influence of, in possession of, or selling or supplying any form of illegal drug”.

For those living in halls, their accommodation contract specifically prohibits the misuse of drugs on University premises. Students who are proved to have contravened the terms of their accommodation contract may be served with notice to terminate their accommodation contract.

A spokesperson at the University of Sunderland said: “The health, safety and welfare of our students is of the utmost importance. Our Wellbeing Team is available 24/7 to support and offer advice to our students with any issues they may be experiencing.

“While we don’t offer drug testing on campus, we work closely with and promote the services of relevant local organisations. Our Student Union takes an active role in promoting advice to students about how to stay safe when they are out.”

A spokesperson for Northumbria University said: “Throughout the year, and particularly at the start of term, we encourage our students to stay safe and continue to remind them of their responsibilities and to take care of each other, particularly in social situations. Students can also speak with a University welfare advisor or health practitioner without an appointment, and they have access to 24/7 support if they need to speak with someone in confidence.”

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