Police chief: We don’t need to fence off the river – just don’t get so paralytically drunk
Durham river safety and drinking focus of BBC and ITV reports
After the deaths of three Durham University students in the River Wear in recent months, the same question is being asked by all in the local community. What can be done to prevent others falling victim to the same tragic circumstances?
The focus of the police is firmly on the controversial issue of student drinking. Speaking to the BBC, Durham’s Chief Constable Mike Barton drew links between the circumstances in which the students died.
He said: “One thing connected these three young men who died in the river and that was they were so paralytically drunk they were not in control of their bodies. They have then walked or stumbled into the river.”
Despite the recent petition signed by over 15,000 people and supported by the Prime Minister, Mike Barton said: “Some people are saying this means we have to fence off the river. No we don’t.”
“What we need to look at is the personal responsibility of young men and women who are coming away to university, starting their lives and who need to behave a bit more socially responsibly.
“I was incensed when I heard some representatives of the student body saying the answer is for more police officers. It is ludicrous that society is asking me to put police officers on the riverbank to stop bright young things falling in. What sort of world have we come to?”
While his comments are likely to provoke debate, especially among the student body, alcohol awareness is clearly the focus of the police.
P.C. Mike Irwin, who tweets under the handle @AlcoholHarmCop, spoke to ITV correspondent Greg Easteal about his concern regarding student drinking and the impact he believes it is having on river safety.
He said: “What’s alarming me and my colleagues is the levels of alcohol that’s been consumed by the students. They’re putting themselves in a really risky situation on numerous occasions.
“Durham University’s senior management is treating the matters of student safety and excessive alcohol consumption with the utmost seriousness.”
“We are committed to taking action but we recognise that these are issues which can only be addressed through a multi-agency approach. Addressing the alcohol culture which has developed in our society as a whole will involve a major shift in attitudes.”
Notably, the statement listed seven methods that are currently being used within the university in the hopes of improving safety. Each of these focused on alcohol awareness and personal safety, while none of the suggestions that the “University and Durham Students’ Union are working with our partners in the City Safety Group on” made mention of improved infrastructure.