'It's a breach of their human rights' - lawyer warns over students in quarantine

28 September 2020, 15:09 | Updated: 28 September 2020, 18:13

By Sam Sholli

A consumer lawyer has told LBC he thinks some students at Manchester Metropolitan University may have had their human rights breached after a tough lockdown was brought in.

Up to 1,700 students at Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU) have been told to quarantine after 127 new Covid-19 cases were confirmed in the accommodation blocks.

A legal expert told Shelagh Fogarty of his concerns over the MMU students' after they have claimed they were met with security guards when they try to leave their halls of residence.

Consumer lawyer Gary Rycroft told Shelagh that, if true, the so-far unverified reports, would represent a breach of the impacted students' human rights.

Coronavirus university rules explained: Are students shut in halls allowed to go home?

"I'd be very concerned if I heard that my child was in a hall of residence and there was police or guards on the door saying that they couldn't go in or our out. I think that that is a breach of their human rights.

His comments came after Larissa Kennedy, president of the National Union of Students (NUS), earlier told Good Morning Britain that she had heard from students across the country who had encountered security guards outside of their accommodation.

Kennedy spoke of how students were being kept in their blocks, stopped from leaving and discouraged from having food delivered to them.

Read more: James O'Brien questions: "Did universities allow students to return to get money in the bank?"

Read more: 'It's a breach of their human rights' - lawyer warns over students in quarantine

"It's basically keeping them in prison and I don't think the university has a right to do that."

When asked by Shelagh about what is expected of students in the circumstances, Mr Rycroft made a distinction between what rules universities could enforce and the legal requirements that the government can impose on UK citizens.

"The legal duty that we all have as citizens is to follow the guidance from the government and NHS.

"The university was imposing a kind of organisational discipline. Now they are entitled to do that because they're a private entity.

"They have their rules of discipline and I would say that if students are behaving in a reckless way and they are not self-isolating in circumstances when they should be then, of course, the university is entitled to take disciplinary proceedings against them and that may ultimately end up with them being thrown out of the university."

Read more: Manchester police say enforcing university quarantine is 'not a policing issue'

Read more: Which UK universities are locked down?

Rycroft was able to speak from a personal as well as a professional perspective because his daughter has just started as a student at the University of Manchester and is living in student accommodation.

His daughter is currently self-isolating along with her seven flatmates.

When asked about what support students are receiving from outside their halls of residence, he responded: "My daughter Charlotte actually told me last night that their fridge isn't working and neither is their cooker, so that was a concern.

"But I've been in touch with her today and apparently Manchester University where she is have been really good. They're on it and someone is coming out today to see them and put that right. So they are being supported, I'm pleased to say."

Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham said he has been assured that students at Manchester Metropolitan University are not being prevented from leaving their accommodation to go for coronavirus tests.

"I have spoken to the vice-chancellor and I am assured that people are able to leave if they have got good reason to do that," he told the press.

"But what has happened over the weekend is that the university has been dealing with a very worrying situation. It obviously required a firm response when there are over a hundred cases.

"I have been assured there is a support package now in place for students."

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