1am, on 13 October 2019, four students at the University of St Andrews were allegedly attacked while walking between Market and South Streets. This has caused a furore through-out the coastal town and on social media as students fear for their safety.
The Saint explores these security concerns, discussing the incident with one of its victims as well as other University students who have experienced similar confrontations with local kids, with the hope of shedding greater light on the issue.
Last month, four students claimed to have been “jumped” by “around nine drunk high schoolers” while walking along the popularly used alley connecting Empire and St Andrews Brewing Co., South Street. The following morning, one of the victims, Chris Pringle, shared the incident on Facebook accompanied with a photo of him with an injured and bleeding lip. Mr Pringle mentioned how all efforts to ignore the people and diffuse the situation failed as the group started attacking him and his friends.
Hey all, this is my first Facebook post and I just want to share something important to me and my friends here in St…
Shion Singleton, a fourth-year student who was also involved in the incident, was punched on the head, suffering a concussion. He also sustained further injuries such as bleeding and swollen lip, an inch-long gash on his hand from broken glass and bruising on his face, arms and groin.
Speaking to The Saint, Mr Singleton noted that, as well as this, from what he could see, one of his friends was choked and punched while another friend was roughed up and hit on the head with a bottle. Mr Pringle and Mr Singleton both maintain that their group of students did not fight back either physically or verbally, beyond yelling at the teenagers to stop. Mr Singleton commented that initially officers near the scene of the attack told his group of friends to “get lost” as they were covering security of Opening Ball and instead call 101 to report the incident.
This is corroborated by his friend who noted that the police were “exceptionally disinterested” in the incident. While The Saint reached out to Police Scotland for details about the investigation, the police declined to comment or offer any updates on the situation.
Nevertheless, after they explained the story to officers at the police station, Mr Singleton noted that the authorities have been “doing a good job” so far in looking into the incident further. This incident fits into wider security and safety concerns in St Andrews. Mr Pringle’s post on community page “University of St Andrews Class of 2021” received an outpouring of solidarity from other students who have experienced similar incidents at the hands of local students.
For example, speaking to The Saint, a fourth-year student who wishes to remain anonymous was walking home past Kinnesburn with their flatmate last month, when they were approached by a group of teens who became aggressive and threatening, supposedly “looking for a reason to fight.” While the duo luckily managed to remain unscathed, this incident demonstrates worryingly frequent aggressive and provocative attitudes by local youths towards students.
In a shocking testimony to The Saint, a current postgraduate student at the University claimed they were attacked nearly three years ago during their second year at St Andrews. While desiring to remain anonymous, the victim divulged that he was jumped by four teenagers travelling in a car near David Russell Apartments. Walking along the main road leading to the town centre, the student was “pretty roughed up” and was forced to escape to University Hall to avoid his attackers. While the police caught the perpetrators, they released them later that night and “never followed up” on the victim’s statement. He maintains that to hear of similar incidents taking place even three years on is shocking as “nothing is being done” about this pertinent security issue and safety in town “isn’t adequately spoken about,” despite various incidents being reported. He also criticises the authorities for “failing to enforce the rule of law” and “provide a safe environment” for University students. He argues that the in-action of police authorities and their lack of firm or harsh stance regarding these assaults have allowed “these behaviours to continue unchecked.” As long as there is no “accountability” or “fear of reprisal for their actions, these attacks will continue through-out town,’’ he warns.
This was corroborated by a PhD student who was verbally abused and pushed by a “group of drunk teenagers and one older guy” who tried to punch him last year at Queens Gardens. Despite filing a report, he stated that the police failed to contact him or take appropriate measures after the incident. He also condemned their style of questioning, stating that the interview made him feel as though he had committed a crime. The lack of response from authorities, he argues, will ensure that these incidents continue occurring as “students know that nothing will happen to them.”
Third-year student Lucy Beall-Lott shared another terrifying incident with The Saint. Ms Beall-Lott was walking from Mitchell’s St Andrews to Tesco at 9 pm, just before Raisin Weekend earlier last month, when she and her friend were verbally and racially abused by two teenage girls. Ms Beall-Lott suffers from Recessive Dystrophic Epidermolysis Bullosa Inversa, a terminal genetic skin condition, which means that a physical assault would have “very severe and life threatening” consequences, and her attack last month has left her fearful of walking home. Ms Beall-Lott states that she was told by Tesco employees that the girls who verbally assaulted her have “been causing trouble”along with other local teenage boys assaulting shoppers leaving Tesco. Sceptical of the police offering support with the incident, Ms Beall-Lott reported the incident to the University’s Advice and Support Centre, who have been supportive and helpful with her case.
Jamie Rodney, president of the Students’ Association, commented on the student attacks, telling The Saint, “While this is more of a police matter than a St Andrews matter, we have been liaising with the Security and Response team about the [issue] and would encourage students to contact the police if they’ve had any issues. I also think it’s important to keep in mind that most school kids are pretty decent, and we shouldn’t let the behaviour of a small minority damage town and gown relations.”
However, while St Andrews has a wide reputation for being extremely safe, Mr Pringle and Mr Singleton caution students from being lulled into a “false sense of security,” urging them to be vigilant and careful while continuing to take the necessary precautions. Furthermore, as demonstrated by the wealth of testimonies gathered by The Saint, there is a significant history of attacks by teens on students, dating back several years.
For any students who would like to report an incident, please contact Police Scotland or call 10.