By Poppy Askham
More than 1,400 Durham University students pledged to participate in the ‘Durham Night In’, a student-led boycott of the city’s bars and nightclubs in protest of the recent increase in drink spikings.
The night saw empty dance floors across the city as teams of campaigners roamed the streets encouraging potential clubgoers to change their plans. The Durham Night In, which was held on 26th October, was one of the first student boycotts to be held this week as part of the national #BigNightIn movement involving students at over sixty universities.
The initiative came following a report that revealed that more than 160 students had reported suspected cases of drink spiking to their college JCRs. The study, carried out by Joe Anson, St Chad’s College JCR Vice President compiled reports by students to their JCRs via freps and welfare teams about incidents that occurred during Freshers’ Week, the week leading up to it and the weekend after.
Nationally, police forces have received almost 200 reports of drink spiking over the past two months. Durham’s student boycott was chiefly orchestrated by Hala
Heenan, current president of St Chad’s College JCR, in order to protest the recent spate of incidents and pressure clubs and bars to improve safety provisions for their customers.
Durham Constabulary has confirmed that it received several reports of drink spiking last weekend, some of which have involved needles. Superintendent Neal Bickford, from Durham Constabulary, stated that: “Thorough investigations, which include medical and forensic examinations, are being carried out into each report.”
One anonymous victim told Palatinate: “During freshers week I was spiked at [Durham nightclub]. I could tell immediately that it was different to being drunk because I was fully aware of what was going on around me; I knew what was happening but I was unresponsive.
“I couldn’t speak even though I could formulate a response in my head I felt really sick I couldn’t keep myself upright.”
The anonymous student also explained that they had been unable to obtain a toxicology report at University Hospital of North Durham to confirm that they had
been spiked, despite waiting for three hours in A&E and that staff could not advise her on an alternative testing facility.
When contacted for comment about the lack of testing facilities, a spokesperson for County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust said, “Our emergency department teams investigate and treat the symptoms a patient presents with. When there is a suspicion or allegation that the patient may have been the victim
of a crime, that would be referred to our colleagues in the police, who have their own investigative processes.”
The anonymous student went on to add: “It’s taken a huge toll on me mentally. My entire uni experience has been completely destroyed by the actions of one person who hasn’t had to suffer any consequences.”
Bickford stated that: “We understand the concerns that people – in particular, students – have around their safety and the night-time economy and are working closely with licensed premises and door staff to increase security and ensure people feel safe on nights out.”
Durham’s student boycott was chiefly orchestrated by Hala Heenan, current president of St Chad’s College JCR, in order to protest the recent spate of incidents and pressure clubs and bars to improve safety provisions for their customers.
Heenan, told Palatinate that the boycott primarily aimed to bring “students together in solidarity”.
“Right now no one is feeling safe in their city”, Heenan explained. “It’s getting to the point where everyone knows at least someone who’s been spiked or someone who knows someone who’s been spiked.”
Image: Cana Tutuncu and Adam Eldridge