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Durham Students Face Being Fined £60 For Drunken Behaviour On Nights Out

The measure is part of a campaign aimed at tackling what local politicians have called an "unsafe" drinking culture among students at the university.

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Students in Durham could be given on-the-spot fines for drunken behaviour, the university has warned.

Owen Humphreys / PA

In a 14-month period three Durham students fell into the River Wear and drowned.

Sope Peters, 20, Luke Pearce, 19, and Euan Coulthard, 19, all died after nights out in the city.

The university, police, and councillors have been trying to find ways to prevent another tragedy.

Tom Wilkinson / PA

This week it was announced some students will be breathalysed on nights out as part of a pilot scheme to make sure they are not too drunk.

And yesterday, the university's pro-vice-chancellor, Graham Towl, told students in an email that they could face on-the-spot fines for drunken behaviour.

The email, seen by The Times, said:

Any person who is found to be drunk and incapable (ie unable to get themselves home safely, people who are unable to stand unaided, etc.) could be arrested or be given a £60 fine for the offence, once sober.

This is a recordable offence and could show on any in-depth [criminal record] check . . . it is an offence to drink alcohol or have an opened alcohol container while in the city. This could amount to a £90 fine.


The police and some students are at odds over how to stop people ending up in the river after nights out.

Durham Constabulary

The chief constable of Durham Constabulary, Mike Barton, recently told the BBC that he was incensed when students suggested there should be more police officers patrolling the river paths.

“It is ludicrous that society is asking me to put police officers on the riverbank to stop bright young things falling in," he said. "What sort of world have we come to?”

The students, though, say the authorities are victim-blaming and point to improvements needed in lighting, CCTV, and barriers along the Wear’s gloomy pathways.


At the end of last month, a 20-year-old student narrowly avoided death after falling in the river after a night out.

Police officers formed a human chain to rescue the student from the river, an act that appears to have caused the force to lose patience with student drinking.

Sergeant Mick Urwin of Durham Constabulary’s alcohol harm reduction unit told BuzzFeed News last week: “We’re not babysitters, we just want them to tone it down. Enough is enough now.”

Durham police have now told BuzzFeed News that officers have been in contact with the university to clarify the issue of £90 fines for being found with open alcohol containers in the city.

As set out by the Home Office, people will only face a potential fine if they refuse to comply with an officer's request to refrain from drinking.

A university spokesperson told us: “The student newspaper, Palatinate, published a statement issued by Durham Constabulary clarifying drinking laws.

“Durham Constabulary’s clarification will be circulated in the next university communication to students.”

Richard James is acting head of news for BuzzFeed Australia and is based in Sydney.

Contact Richard James at

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