Ben Hayward February 10th

A number of students at the University of Manchester say they have been left ‘terrified’ by ‘heavy-handed’ policing on campus.

Amid reports of police officers entering accommodation to check for coronavirus breaches, The Independent has spoken to various students who say they’ve been left scared by officers entering their flats unannounced. 

Polly Hayes, who is in her first year, said students have witnessed officers walking around ‘in big groups’ seemingly picking flats at random to search with university security letting them in.

She said: “It feels like we’re constantly being watched and reported on and have no privacy because police can enter any room at any time.” 

Greater Manchester Police (GMP) said officers have been 'proactively patrolling’ to prevent breaches of Covid-19 regulations with university security staff and that entry into halls is with permission from the university. 

Chief Superintendent Paul Savill of GMP's City of Manchester division told The Independent:They have acted upon information received from the university, and apparent gatherings in breach of the regulations they have witnessed themselves.”

Another student, Finley Gore, said police were going into flats for noise complaints, mostly only to find the people who live there.

“It’s quite scary, to be honest. I've only got four flatmates back, including myself. So we don't get up to much, it is not particularly eventful,” he said.

“But we're still genuinely terrified that we're just going to have police come in [who] might even just fine for being a bit lippy when they like come into our kitchen. It’s terrifying.” 

Isabelle Barnes, a first-year student at the University of Manchester, was fined in December, when police entered her accommodation and found two people from outside the household there - including her boyfriend, who had come to take her home for Christmas.

She said the officers had entered her flat ‘with no warning or explanation as to why they were there’ and has lodged an official complaint with GMP over how the matter was handled.

She has asked why they entered her flat in the first place and asked for a response to claims that students were taken into closed rooms on their own with officers as part of the process.

Ch Supt Savill said: "Covid breaches put not only the health of the students at risk, but also the university staff, the wider community, GMP officers and the families of those called on to deal with large gatherings.”

A University of Manchester spokesperson said: “Since the start of the academic year, Greater Manchester Police have been operating an initiative across the city, which has targeted reports of large gatherings both on and off university campuses.

"This has included responding to such reports in our Fallowfield halls of residence - many made by students - as well as in private accommodation."

The spokesperson added that although the ‘overwhelming majority’ of students were following coronavirus guidelines, a ‘minority’ continue to breach rules, ‘endangering themselves and others and in a few cases causing serious damage to property’.

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