North East universities pledge to keep fresher students safe against drug use as new academic year begins

As hundreds of students travel to the Northeast to begin their studies, the region’s universities have pledged to protect freshmen.

Two years have passed since the tragic deaths of students Jeni Larmour and Nathaniel Pavlovic, who died just hours after arriving in the city.

18-year-old Newcastle University student Jeni, from Northern Ireland, was found unresponsive in her residence halls at Park View Student Village on Richardson Road in the early hours of 3 October 2020. She was sadly pronounced dead at the scene and fellow student Kavir Kalliecharan was later arrested as part of the investigation into Jeni’s death of possession of MDMA (a Class A drug), possession of ketamine (a Class B drug) and possession of cannabis charged.

The 19-year-old politics student from Coleridge Close in Leeds pleaded guilty to the offenses and received a two-year parole and was ordered to pay £85 in costs and a £21 victim’s surcharge.

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Just after 8am on Sunday 4th October 2020 it was reported that Northumbria University student Nathaniel, 21, from Halifax in West Yorkshire, had fallen ill at his Melbourne Street dig site. He was taken to the hospital, where he died a short time later. An inquest found he died after ingesting substances that “were yet to be identified.”

Jeni Larmour, pictured in 2018
Jeni Larmour, pictured in 2018

Over the past year, many students across the UK have also raised concerns about drinking and injecting while going out. Durham and Newcastle were among the cities that staged boycotts of nightclubs last autumn.

Ahead of the new academic year, universities in the North East have reported on the measures being taken to protect freshmen while studying in the region.

A Newcastle University spokesman said: “At Newcastle we work very hard to educate our students about the dangers of drug use and to support those who are affected by their own use or that of someone they know. We take a harm reduction stance towards student drug use that focuses on protection, education, support and effective policies and procedures.

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“Our teams are working with Northumbria Police, Student Health and Wellbeing, Accommodation and Student Progress to take appropriate action to both protect our community and ensure vulnerable students are effectively supported. We would strongly encourage every student to seek support through our Student Health and Wellbeing Service if they are using or intend to use drugs.”

Durham University works with the County Durham Drug and Alcohol Recovery Service to provide support and education to students and staff. Those with concerns about drug or alcohol related issues may contact a special email account dedicated to members of the Durham University community which can be found here.

In its drug policy, the University of Sunderland said it will “always take a reasonable and proportionate response to any student or staff suspected of using, possessing, selling or supplying illegal drugs of any kind”.

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For residents of dormitories, the accommodation contract expressly prohibits the abuse of drugs on the university premises. The accommodation contract can be terminated for students who can be proven to have violated the provisions of the accommodation contract.

A University of Sunderland spokesman said: “The health, safety and welfare of our students is of paramount importance. Our wellbeing team is available 24/7 to provide support and advice to our students with any issues they may have.

“Although we do not offer drug testing on campus, we work closely with relevant local organizations and promote their services.

A Northumbria University spokesman said: “Throughout the year and particularly at the start of the semester we encourage our students to stay safe and continue to remind them of their responsibilities and look out for one another, particularly in social situations. Students can also speak to a university welfare advisor or naturopath without an appointment, and have 24-hour access to support if they need to speak to someone they trust.”

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