Now police chief declares war on ‘criminally negligent’ supermarkets
We caught up with Mike Barton after yesterday’s panel discussion
After a fiery exchange at the Q&A on student drinking, Chief Constable Mike Barton agreed to speak exclusively with The Tab.
In our chat he:
- Condemned dirt-cheap ‘hard liquor’ available in supermarkets
- Praised student favourite, Klute
- Slammed UKIP’s John Leathley’s ‘serial killer’ theory
- Rejected town-gown divide or police-student divide
- Defended ‘Bright Young Things’ comment
Sitting jovially on the DSU’s leather sofas, Mike was eager to share his passion for students, and how much he personally felt the pain of the tragic deaths in Durham’s river.
Mike Barton called the three students whot died in the last 15 months, “tragic victims and their families are tragic victims too.” But he won’t cite fencing as the only answer.
“My stance on river safety, is one of making sure the river is as safe as possible, but bearing in mind it’s part of a World Heritage Site.
“If people want to do this, that, and the other, there’s an awful lots of controls put in place by society to make sure you can’t even immediately do it.”
An independent report by RoSPA found that “fencing would be of limited use,” but many students are still calling for barriers of some sorts along the river.
Mike previously rules out fences saying the answer lay in not getting “paralytically drunk.”
Recently many have reacted negatively to a so-called “war on Klute” waged in a public local newspaper by a police officer. But Mike wanted to distance himself from the campaign.
“I’ve never said anything about Klute, other than I used to go there as a student. It’s been going that long! Dear God it’s older than me! Klute adds immeasurably to the reputation of Durham as a safe party town for young people: so I’m a big fan.
“My beef is with off-licences like the supermarkets. In my view supermarkets are criminally negligent in the way they are marketing drink and flogging it at ridiculously low prices.”
Mike also wanted to defend bouncers in Durham: “Door staff quite rightly denied Sope entry, but we’re now training door staff to say, ‘now what happens?'”
On Tuesday, The Tab exclusively revealed John Leathley, the UKIP parliamentary candidate for Sedgefield, had blamed students or a “serial killer” for the deaths of there students.
Mike Barton didn’t shy away from slamming such ridiculous accusations saying: “There is not one piece of evidence, not one piece of intelligence, or information, suggesting there is any criminality in these three deaths.
“If a parliamentary candidate is alleging that, then I would urge him to come to me with evidence so I can mount a criminal investigation.
“If he hasn’t got evidence then he might want to consider as to whether or not that’s a very wise thing to say.”
But Mike, himself, caused a great deal of controversy earlier in the year calling students “bright young things.” Many saw it as an insulting, divisive and patronising. But he’s not changing his tune.
“That was a literary reference to Evelyn Waugh. I would have expected, I was on an intellectual level I was speaking to fellow intellectuals.
“There is a real resonance here, students have got to be aware if they are seen to lead a dissolute lifestyle on the face of it local people may come to a ‘judgement’.
“Carry on swimming about in that very pessimistic pool, or join me in the optimist mode I absolutely taken on this: we can make this world a safer place.”
Mike may call for students to join him, while also promising an personally-penned article for The Tab. But he did contradict the RoSPA report:
“A consistent theme has been men, mid-week, drunk a lot, isolated and second-year.” But the report makes clear there was no correlation between days of the week and accidents.
The Chief Constable left with his media-scribe in toe: he may have retracted an accusation The Tab developed a student culture of “victimhood,” but clearly the student-police tension will remain.
But he wanted to make clear: “If one student drinks one drink less, and is microscopically safer, all of this publicity has been a value.”