Student Behaviour Contracts and Fixed Penalty Notices
Cardiff University were very clear about how they expected students to behave during the Coronavirus pandemic. The student population in Cardiff is large and varied and includes vulnerable individuals, who found the impact of COVID-19 genuinely scary. Although many students may not have felt at risk themselves, the University and the local authorities expected all students to behave appropriately and with consideration.
The University required all students to adopt their Community Commitment, which includes the principles they expected students to adhere to, and information on how to report students who breached the rules. Importantly, all students, staff and the local community were informed of this Commitment and were encouraged to report any behaviour that may have fallen short of expectations.
The University also form part of the Cardiff Community Safety Partnership. During the pandemic, this Partnership involved many agencies working together to reduce the level of anti-social behaviour in the community which could cause harm and distress. In cases where Cardiff University students were identified as having breached the Coronavirus restrictions, South Wales Police may have issued a Student Behaviour Contract and informed the University.
The student population in Cardiff is large and varied and both includes and exists amongst vulnerable individuals, who found the current situation genuinely scary.
What is a Student Behaviour Contract?
If you were issued with a Student Behaviour Contract from the Cardiff Community Safety Partnership, it should be because you were caught by the authorities breaching the Welsh Government Coronavirus restrictions. Strictly speaking, if you were caught breaching government restrictions, the police may have powers to issue you with a Fixed Penalty Notice (FPN). An FPN is essentially a fine intended to replace prosecution.
Upon issuing a behaviour contract, the Police will have reported your breach to the University. It is our understanding that the University will hold a record of the Contract that was issued to you.
If the University received a second report, they were likely to initiate an investigation into your conduct. If this happened, you would have been investigated under the Student Conduct Procedure or, if you were studying a professional registration programme, under the Fitness to Practise Procedure.
If you were issued with a Student Behaviour Contract, it was your decision whether or not to sign it. The important points that we advised students to consider were:
- We understand from the Police that they have a record of both issuing the Contract and the reason for it (e.g. that you were found at a particular address with x amount of people/people from different households, contrary to the rules in force at the time). This means that they will be dealing with any further breach of the rules as a repeat offence, regardless of whether you sign or not.
- The police have said that they will not be informing the University whether or not you have signed the contract but the University may ask you should they carry out an investigation as above.
- Signing the Contract may be seen as positive step in engaging in the process. This may make a difference if you are later investigated by the police or the University.
- Signing the Contract may be used as an argument that you were actively agreeing to the terms and may make a further breach seem a greater act of defiance.
The last two points seem confusingly contradictory but either may apply, depending on how the police/University decided to approach any further offences. Ultimately, regardless of your signature, you will be held accountable for the terms specified and failure to comply could lead to the above prosecution and disciplinary procedure(s). If the incident in question was not sufficiently serious and there are no further breaches of the rules, there will be no further action by anyone in the Partnership.
Fixed Penalty Notice (FPN)
Importantly, if you were caught breaching the Coronavirus restrictions in a more serious way, or for a second time, you may have been issued with Fixed Penalty Notice of up to £1920. If you were considered to be an organiser of an unlicensed music event with 30 or more attendees, you could have been fined up to £10,000.
- If a Police Officer or PCSO (if designated) has a reasonable belief that a person over 18 has committed a general offence, they may issue a Fixed Penalty Notice of £60 (in the usual way), reduced to £30 if paid within 14 days. The FPN doubles on the second and subsequent offences to a maximum of £1,920 (and the reduction for early payment is not offered).
- Where a FPN is issued in respect of a gathering in a private dwelling of more than 15 people, the FPN is £60 and there is no reduction if paid within 14 days.
- The penalty charge must be paid not later than the last day of the period of 28 days (which begins from the date of your written notice – The date YOU receive the notice).
- You will not be liable for conviction for the offence if you pay the fixed penalty during the period of 28 days from the date of your notice.
- If you decline the option of a fixed penalty you can request a court hearing.
- There is a power of entry to premises if the officer has reasonable grounds for suspecting that a requirement imposed by these Regulations is being, has been or is about to be contravened on the premises and it is considered necessary to enter the premises to ascertain if that is the case.
Cardiff University Community Commitment Principles were as follows:
- I will read, follow and support the University’s guidance relating to reducing the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) for students and staff.
- I understand that guidance will be regularly updated so I will take personal responsibility for ensuring I am up to date with the latest information. I accept the role that I have to play in making sure that the areas where I live, work, and study are as safe as they can be to the best of my abilities and knowledge.
- I understand that this is an ever-developing situation and one which requires everyone’s ongoing attention and vigilance to understand the issues and impact created as a result of the global pandemic. I will help to support everyone in our community to ensure they have the best experience possible.
- I will look out for those I work and learn with. I understand the importance of providing support, to help people where possible in dealing with the impact of coronavirus (COVID-19) on their lives and supporting others to help them stay engaged with their work or their academic studies. I will ensure I understand what University support is available and how I may access it for myself and others.
- I will behave in accordance with relevant University conduct policies and the Dignity at Work and Study policy. I will focus on inclusivity and supporting everyone around me. Where appropriate and where I feel safe and able to, I will call out and positively challenge when I see others behaving inappropriately and contrary to coronavirus (COVID-19) guidance. I will raise those concerns directly with those people in an open, constructive and polite manner. Where I feel unable to safely challenge, I will raise concerns with specialist teams within the University as outlined in this Commitment.
- If I am challenged about my behaviour I will take these requests seriously and respond in an open, positive, and respectful manner, in line with this Commitment and the Dignity at Work and Study policy. I understand that the appropriate staff and student complaint, disciplinary and grievance procedures could apply in the event of an intentional breach of this Commitment.
Contact Student Advice
+44 (0)2920 781410